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Serena cruises in Australian Open return

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MELBOURNE, Australia—This was quite a return for Serena Williams. Almost as if she never left.

In her first match at the Australian Open since winning the 2017 title while pregnant, and her first official match anywhere since a loss in the chaotic U.S. Open final last September, Williams looked to be at her dominant best, overpowering Tatjana Maria 6-0, 6-2 in the first round today.

“I kind of like to jump in the deep end and swim," Williams said in an on-court interview after the 49-minute workout. "And see what happens.”

She hadn't dipped her toe in Grand Slam waters since New York, where everything devolved after Williams was warned for getting coaching, then docked a point for breaking a racket and eventually docked a game for calling the chair umpire “a thief” during the final.

Williams is pursuing an eighth title in Melbourne and 24th Slam singles trophy overall, which would equal Margaret Court—whose career spanned the amateur and professional eras—for the most in tennis history.

“I have been going for the record [for] what seems like forever now,” the 37-year-old Williams said.

“So it doesn't feel any different.”

How lopsided was this? Williams needed all of 18 minutes to wrap up the first set, ceding just five of 29 points along the way.

The American, a former No. 1 who is seeded 16th on account of playing only 24 matches in 2018, never faced a single break point and compiled a 22-7 edge in winners.

Williams' older sister, Venus, is unseeded at a major for the first time in five years and she was a game from a first-round exit before coming all the way back to eliminate 25th-seeded Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-7 (3), 7-6 (3), 6-2.

The tournament's two No. 1 seeds—Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep—played at night and both won, although in contrasting fashion.

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