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June 23, 2017

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Serena Williams opens season well with comfortable win

BRISBANE, Australia -- Serena Williams opened her season with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Varvara Lepchenko in the first round of the Brisbane International on Sunday, showing glimpses of the game that made her the most dominant player on the women's tennis tour in 2012.

After saving five break points as she adjusted to a strong cross breeze in the first game, Williams raced to a 4-0 lead and was rarely troubled by the Uzbekistan-born Lepchenko, who is ranked No. 21 and represents the United States.

Williams, who won 31 of her 32 matches in the second half of last season including titles at Wimbledon, the Olympics, the U.S. Open at the WTA Championships, is coming off minor surgery on her big toes which forced her to withdraw from a Dec. 29 exhibition in Thailand.

Her footwork and movement didn't seem to be affected at all in a match that lasted just under an hour at the Queensland Tennis Centre, and she reeled off a succession of powerful winners in the 23-minute second set.

Williams had to withdraw from the Brisbane International before her quarterfinal last year due to an ankle injury she sustained in her second-round match and is determined to go further this time in her only warmup tournament before the Australian Open starts on Jan. 14.

Sixth-seeded Petra Kvitova had a 6-3, 6-4 win over Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain and will next meet Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who beat Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

Kvitova, who won the 2011 Brisbane International before claiming her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, was unable to convert her first match point at 5-2 in the second set Sunday, then dropped a service game before Suarez Navarro's late comeback ended with an error on the second match point.

In other matches, Australian wildcard entry Jarmila Gajdosova had a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 win over 16th-ranked Roberta Vinci of Italy to set up a second-round match against No. 2-seeded Maria Sharapova, who had a first-round bye. Urszula Radwanska of Poland beat Tamira Paszek of Austria 2-6, 6-0, 6-2 and Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova had a 7-5, 6-2 win over Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain.

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