Acukland, Brisbane: Top seed Serena Williams kickstarted her Auckland Classic singles campaign in style with an easy 6-3 6-2 victory over Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi on Tuesday.

Playing her first singles match since losing last year’s US Open final to Bianca Andreescu, the 38-year-old Williams fired eight aces and was hardly troubled by Giorgi.

Williams broke the Italian’s serve three times, while remaining unbroken herself in a first round encounter that lasted only 68 minutes.

Giorgi, 28, was no match for Williams’ powerful serve as the 23-times Grand Slam winner prevailed in blustery conditions which proved to be her downfall in 2017, stretching her unbeaten run against her Italian opponent to five matches.

“It was really fun to be out here and back again,” Williams said in a post-match interview.

“It’s really good to know I still have some power in my arms and legs.”

In Brisbane, two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka began her 2020 season with a 6-2 6-7(4) 6-3 win over Maria Sakkari in the opening round of the Brisbane International on Tuesday.

Osaka fired 16 aces and broke her Greek opponent four times in the two hour, seven minutes encounter, but struggled in the second set tiebreak when Sakkari won five points in a row before squaring the match on an unforced error from the Japanese.

The pair traded breaks in the opening stages of the final set before former world number one Osaka clinched victory, despite double faulting on her first match point.

“I knew going into it that it was going to be a really hard match,” Osaka said. “I think in the second set I was just complaining a lot in the tiebreak. I was just trying to calm down and stay positive.”

Former U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, 24th in the WTA rankings, fell at the first hurdle to Liudmila Samsonova, who is ranked more than 100 places below her. The 129th ranked Russian won 6-4 2-6 6-3.

Stephens’ compatriot and eighth seed Madison Keys advanced with a 6-3 6-2 win over the Czech Republic’s Marie Bouzkova.