Serena Williams got her quest for a record sixth Miami WTA title off to a brisk start on Thursday with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Italian Flavia Pennetta.
The world No. 1 and top seed, playing her first tournament since falling to Victoria Azarenka in the final at Doha in February, said she did not feel too rusty, although her footwork could improve.
“I think I missed a few shots, but only because I think I was off footwork-wise,” she said. “But it’s always just good just to win a match and stay in the tournament and keep going.”
Despite the lopsided scoreline, Williams said Pennetta’s ability to extend the rallies made the match difficult, although the American fended off all seven break points she faced.
She had 18 break chances against Pennetta, and converted five, saying she felt a little frustrated that she was not doing more.
“I felt like I should be putting the balls away for my opponent quick, but she was so quick and she was running every ball down,” Williams said.
Her elder sister Venus Williams also advanced, holding on for a 7-6 (7/3), 3-6, 6-4 victory over Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krum.
Defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska, fifth-seeded Li Na of China and seventh-seeded Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic all joined Williamses in the third round.
Radwanska parlayed an early break in each set into to a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei.
“I was happy to have a quick match,” she said. “The first match is always a little bit tough and tricky, especially after Indian Wells, where we had a little bit of different conditions.”
Li, playing her first tournament since suffering an ankle injury in her loss to Azarenka in the Australian Open final, downed Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-1.
Former Wimbledon champion Kvitova defeated China’s Peng Shuai 5-7, 6-2, 6-2.
Serena next faces Japan’s Ayumi Morita, a 7-6 (7/2), 2-6, 6-3 winner over Belgian Yanina Wickmayer.
Her five titles in Miami tie her with Steffi Graf, and while she thinks it would be “really cool” to take sole possession of the record, she said she must focus on the matches as they come.
“I have a lot of matches to play,” Serena said. “If I can just stay relaxed — I really feel like I can do it, but, you know, I’m sometimes my own worst enemy. I just want to get through every match one at a time.”
She is also vying to maintain her spot atop the rankings. A failure to reach the quarter-finals could open the door for either Azarenka or Maria Sharapova to overtake her.
“It always feels better when you’re No. 1,” Serena said. “There’s nothing like when they announce you and they say: ‘The No. 1 player in the world.’ It definitely gives you a little bit more confidence ... a little more pep in your step.”
Novak Djokovic was to lead the men’s seeds into second-round action in this combined WTA and ATP Masters tournament yesterday against Czech Lukas Rosol. Third-seeded David Ferrer of Spain was to take on Dmitry Tursunov of Russia.
In the men’s first-round matches on Thursday, Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun defeated the US’ Robby Ginepri 7-5, 6-1.
Meanwhile, 20-year-old Australian Bernard Tomic beat French qualifier Marc Gicquel 7-5, 7-6 (7/3) to set up a second-round meeting with second-seeded Scot Andy Murray.
Additional reporting by staff writer