ROME: Serena Williams got her clay-court season off to a strong start with a 6-4, 6-3 win over 51st-ranked Anna-Lena Friedsam in the second round of the Italian Open on Tuesday.
Having missed the Madrid Open last week due to a fever, top-ranked Serena showed no signs of illness, sending down crushing returns of serve for winners and dictating the long rallies.
“I love the clay and it just really felt good out there tonight,” Serena said. “I was really happy with my level. I think I was really consistent. … I was really concerned how it would be just running and moving and recovering. But it was fun.”
A 21-time Grand Slam winner, Williams hasn’t won a title since a hard-court event in Cincinnati last August.
Serena was beaten by Angelique Kerber in this year’s Australian Open final, and then fell to Victoria Azarenka in the title-match in Indian Wells, California.
In her only other appearance this year, she lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the fourth round of the Miami Open.
In first-round action, ninth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Caroline Garcia 7-5, 6-4, while Timea Bacsinszky crushed Belgian Yanina Wickmayer 6-2, 6-2.
Unseeded former Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard battled past two-time Rome winner Jelena Jankovic 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 and will next face Kerber.
Also, 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur rallied past American qualifier Alison Riske 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 and rising British player Johanna Konta defeated Swedish qualifier Johanna Larsson 6-1, 6-2.
In men’s second-round action, Japanese sixth seed Kei Nishikori had to fight back from a set down to see off Serb Viktor Troicki 5-7, 6-2, 6-3.
Nishikori surged ahead after Troicki got into a shouting match with the chair umpire at 1-1 in the second set.
Roland Garros holder Stan Wawrinka, the fourth seed in Italy, raced through the final two sets in beating Frenchman Benoit Paire 5-7, 6-2, 6-1.
Eighth seed Tomas Berdych cruised into round three with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain.
In the first round, ninth-seeded David Ferrer came back from a set down to defeat Italian wild card entry Filippo Volandri 4-6, 7-5, 6-1, Belgian 12th seed David Goffin defeated Jack Sock 6-4, 6-4 and Juan Monaco put out South African 16th seed Kevin Anderson 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Frenchmen Nicolas Mahut, Stephane Robert and Jeremy Chardy all won their first-round ties.