MELBOURNE — The last time Serena Williams played the Australian Open in 2017 she won the title while, unbeknownst to spectators, she was in her first trimester of pregnancy.
This time around she’s a mom on a mission with the quest ahead a 24th Grand Slam title, which would tie her with record-holder Margaret Court. A victory here would also increase Williams’ Open Era record of Australian Open titles to eight and be her first Grand Slam victory since she won here two years ago.
Williams flew past fellow mom, Tatjana Maria of Germany, 6-0, 6-2 in 49 minutes. The two are friends and neighbors in their Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, neighborhood. When both are in town, Maria says the two families will often enjoy a barbecue together.
“I think the last time I was here I was actually pregnant and playing at the same time, which is insane,” Williams told the crowd. “It feels good walking back on this court, by myself this time.
“That was one of the best matches of my career.”
So asked how she would characterize the difference in her between the 2017 Australian Open and the 2019 Australian Open, she kept it simple.
“I’m not pregnant,” Williams said, which was greeted with laughter.
The 16th-seeded Williams, who’s won 10 majors since turning 30, captured the first set in 18 minutes and the second in 31 minutes.
Williams is one of four moms competing at this year’s Australian Open, along with Maria, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and Evgeniya Rodina of Russia.
Williams, wearing a bright green, form-fitting short jumpsuit that she described as a “Serena-tard,” offered the 74th-ranked Maria little room to insert herself into the match. Williams never faced a break point on her serve, and posted only 11 unforced errors and 22 winners in the match.
“Consistency,” was her answer, when asked what pleased her most about her first-round victory. “I didn’t make too many unforced errors, I think. She’s been able to beat top players, No. 1 and No. 2, so she knows how to play. I think always when I have a tougher round or I know someone that’s really good, I really want to be focused, and then that was really helpful for me today.”
The German didn’t hold a game point until the fourth game of the second set, which was the first game she held serve in the match. She held serve the next time she served as well, but the effort was too little, too late.
“Today was really not my day,” Maria said. “At the beginning I didn’t find my rhythm and after, I guess after with Serena, it’s hard to get into the match.”
This is only the fourth Grand Slam tournament Williams played since giving birth to daughter, Alexis Olympia, in September 2017. She withdrew from a fourth-round match against Maria Sharapova at last year’s French Open, then followed with final appearances at Wimbledon and the US Open.
The US Open final was marred by controversy as she repeatedly had words with umpire Carlos Ramos throughout the loss to first-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka. That was the last time she played an official match until she stepped on court to face Maria on Tuesday.
Williams has only lost in a Grand Slam first-round match once in her career, at the 2012 French Open. It was that disturbing defeat that led Williams to begin training with well-known coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who remains her tennis guru nearly seven years later.
Williams will play Eugenie Bouchard in the second round. Bouchard’s career has been shaky since she lost to Petra Kvitova as a teenager in the 2014 Wimbledon final.