ROME: Serena Williams opened her clay-court season with a routine 6-4, 6-2 win over Swedish qualifier Rebecca Peterson on Monday in the first round of the Italian Open.
Williams fell behind 3-1 in the first set but then began to take control with her baseline power on a windy day at the Foro Italico.
When Williams ran down a passing attempt from Peterson and replied with a cross-court winner to break for a 5-2 lead in the second set, she let out a scream and bent over as she pumped both of her fists.
Williams finished with 28 winners to Peterson’s eight, and committed only two more unforced errors than the 58th-ranked Swede, 22-20.
Williams was playing for the first time since withdrawing ahead of her third-round match at the Miami Open in March because of a left knee injury.
The last time Williams had played in Rome was when she won the last of her four Italian Open trophies in 2016.
If Venus Williams wins her match against Elize Mertens, the Williams sisters will meet in the second round.
In men’s action, 13th-seeded Borna Coric rallied past Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4 in a matchup of two of the top young players on tour.
Auger-Aliassime struggled with his serve, hitting seven double-faults to Coric’s one.
Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco also had to come from behind to beat Kyle Edmund 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. Verdasco will next face fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem. Also, Laslo Djere defeated Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 6-4.
Others advancing on the women’s side included Dominika Cibulkova, Katerina Siniakova and Yulia Putintseva.