Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Tennis: Serena Williams overcomes slow start to advance at ASB Classic

Serena Williams in first round ASB Classic action against Pauline Parmenter. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Serena Williams in first round ASB Classic action against Pauline Parmenter. Photo / Jason Oxenham

She's on her way. Serena Williams has overcome a difficult start to defeat French woman Pauline Parmentier 6-3 6-4 in her first round match at the ASB Classic.

Her hotly anticipated debut didn't disappoint, Williams displaying all of the power, precision and skill that has kept her on the top of the sport for so long.

But it was nowhere near one way traffic. Williams had a patchy start, broken in her first service game and slipping to a 3-1 deficit. In her first match since last September, there was always going to be some rust, and maybe even some nerves for the veteran American. She wasn't helped by blustery conditions on centre court, with the ball kids struggling to hold the umbrellas up during the change of ends.

And as normally happens in such situations, world No70 Parmentier raised her game. The Frenchwoman - who has never been past the fourth round of a grand slam - at times looked like a world beater.

She served well, and often matched the American stroke for stroke.

Williams was broken in the first game of the match, after being down 0-40 at one point.

The American lost the next game - to love - as Parmentier found her serving range early.
However, to the obvious delight of the near sell-out crowd, Williams eventually kicked into gear.

From 3-1 down, the 35-year-old won five successive games to take the set, mixing up vicious serves and returns with some silky drop shots.

Williams broke early in the second set - and looked to be on the downhill slope to the finish - but Parmentier showed impressive resistance. She broke back midway through the set, as Williams looked for guidance from her coach sat courtside.

Williams fended off three break points in the crucial sixth game - unleashing a booming cross court winner to hold for 3-3 and then broke Parmentier in the next game.

The 22-time grand slam winner had to fight until the end, saving two break point opportunities in her next service game, but eventually prevailed in 76 minutes.

- NZ Herald

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