Ruthless first-round display: Serena Williams. Photo: AFP
ONE year ago in Brisbane, Serena Williams said she had never really liked tennis all that much. Given her disdain for exercise, Williams never worked out how she found herself one of the all-time greats.
It was a perplexing admission for a woman who had, by that point, picked up a bounty of 13 Grand Slam singles titles. As it turned out, tennis for her was a treatable condition she had grown to live with, rather than a passion to indulge.
Twelve months, two Grand Slam singles titles and an Olympic gold medal later, Williams' fiery fling with the game that has made her more than $40 million is on again.
As the howling wind whipped around Pat Rafter Arena on the first day of the Brisbane International on Sunday, Williams breezed in and out with a nonchalant round-one win.
Williams picked apart countrywoman Varvara Lepchenko 6-2, 6-1 in 59 minutes.
She said her love for the sport had returned, spurred on by a wonderful second half of the year that included a title at Wimbledon, the US Open, and gold at the London Olympics.
"I have [fallen back in love with tennis]. When I get to travel the world and go different places and do something and have fun - holding up trophies is always really cool - so I think it's a really cool time and a really cool experience," she said.
Williams will play West Australian qualifier Bojana Bobusic in the second round. The 25-year-old Perth late-bloomer , ranked No. 334 in the world, racked up her eighth-straight victory of the Australian summer with a tense three-set qualifying upset over Czech Kristyna Pliskova.
Bobusic's 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win over world No. 104 Pliskova was her third straight three-set qualifying win in the Brisbane heat, helping her join Samantha Stosur, Jarmila Gajdosova and Olivia Rogowska in the 30-strong main draw.
''I actually really enjoy playing in the heat and humidity,'' Bobusic said. ''For me it's a bit of an advantage. It's nice to know, physically, I'm in shape … that I can last three matches and three sets each.''
Gajdosova defeated Italian Roberta Vinci 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 and will meet Maria Sharapova in round two.
Stosur begins her campaign on Monday night, when she meets Swede Sofia Arvidsson.