Tennis: Serena shakes off rust for comeback win

AUCKLAND (AFP) – Serena Williams was troubled by windy conditions and some early rust before beating 69th-ranked Pauline Parmentier 6-3, 6-4 to launch her comeback from a four-month lay-off at the Auckland Classic on Tuesday.

In her first outing since she was shocked by Karolina Pliskova in the US Open semi-finals in September, the world number two made a sluggish start to a season in which she is seeking a record 23rd Grand Slam title.

In her first-round match, delayed from Monday night when rain washed out play, Williams struggled initially as France s Parmentier broke the American s first service game and then held to love.

The 35-year-old Williams, using Auckland to warm up for the Australian Open, only had a 48 percent success rate with her first serve and double-faulted four times as she had trouble adjusting to the swirling wind.

But Williams — who shares the Open-era record of 22 Grand Slams with Steffi Graf, and is two behind Margaret Court s all-time record of 24 — grew steadily stronger and finished with her eighth ace.

She said her rhythm returned as the match progressed.

“I m feeling like I m trying to get there. Obviously every match counts,” she said.

“This wind was getting to me. Every day I ve practised here there was no wind and of course today I played and it s so windy. It wasn t fun, it was interesting.”

After Williams dropped her opening service game, she fought back from 3-1 down to win five successive games to take the opening set.

Both players suffered service breaks at the start of the second set before Williams broke again to go 4-3 up. She then came from three break points down to claim the crucial eighth game and went on to take the match in 75 minutes.