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In return to Australian Open after giving birth, Serena Williams wins in straight sets

In return to Australian Open after giving birth, Serena Williams wins in straight sets
Serena Williams in action in her first round match against Tatjana Maria of Germany during Day 2 of the 2019 Australian Open at Melbourne Park. (Julian Finney / Getty Images)

Serena Williams jumped straight back in where she left off at the Australian Open, returning for the first time since winning the title in 2017 when she was pregnant with her first child.

Williams, who is seeded 16th, conceded only five points in the first set in a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Germany’s Tatjana Maria, another mom who lives close to Williams in Florida and visits for play dates with their daughters.

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“Yeah, I think the last time I was here, I was pregnant and playing at the same time, which is insane,” Williams said Tuesday. “It’s kind of weird walking back on, by myself this time.”

Williams considers the 2017 victory over sister Venus at Melbourne Park among the best of her 23 Grand Slam event singles titles.

“Literally the best win of my career,” she said. “Just exciting to be back.”

Williams will play in the second round against Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, who advanced with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over wild-card entry Peng Shuai of China.

American Madison Keys, a former U.S. Open finalist, beat Australian wild-card entry Destanee Aiava 6-2, 6-2 to open play at Rod Laver Arena on Day 2 of the tournament.

Keys broke Aiava’s serve in the third game of the second set to go up 2-1, then again in the seventh game thanks in part to an Aiava double-fault and two forehand errors.

“I expected it to be tough — obviously playing an Aussie on Rod Laver. Thanks for the love, anyway,” Keys told the crowd.

Another early women’s winner was seventh-seeded Karolina Pliskova, who beat qualifier and fellow Czech Karolina Muchova 6-3, 6-2.

Among the men, fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany won 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 over Aljaz Bedene of Slovenia and eighth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan won 10 consecutive games before Kamil Majchrzak of Poland retired with the score at 3-6, 6-7 (6), 6-0, 6-2, 3-0.

“I have to say he had it today,” Nishikori said of Majchrzak. “He was playing very well, better than I thought. ... It was very unfortunate how we finished.”

Late Tuesday matches included the top-seeded players in the tournament, Novak Djokovic of Serbia against qualifier Mitchell Krueger of the U.S. in the men’s draw and Simona Halep of Romania against Kaia Kanepi of Estonia in the women’s.

In late Monday first-round matches, defending men’s champion Roger Federer of Switzerland began his quest for a record seventh Open title with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan in front of more than 15,000 at Rod Laver Arena.

The first of the night matches at the arena featured defending women’s champion Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who had little trouble getting past Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium in straight sets.

Also in the men’s draw, ninth-ranked John Isner of the United States lost 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6), 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5) to Reilly Opelka, who earned his first victory in a main-draw match at any of the majors.

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It was the first time Isner failed to beat an American opponent at a Grand Slam tournament.

At Melbourne Arena, and in front of a capacity crowd, Andy Murray of Britain lost what is likely his last match at the Open 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (4), 6-2 to No. 22-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain.

The former No. 1-ranked Murray, 31, announced Friday his plans to retire at Wimbledon, if his surgically repaired right hip can carry him that far.

“If today was my last match, look, it was a brilliant way to finish,” Murray said. “I literally gave everything that I had on the court, fought as best as I could, and performed a lot better than what I should have done with the amount I’ve been able to practice and train.”

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