Serena Williams took to the centre court for her first round match at the Australian Open on Tuesday, January 17, amidst many doubts, but she failed to make the doubting Thomases happy.
After playing only two matches in four months, and with a dodgy knee and a sweltering day, the doubts were swirling around Williams.
But there were no doubts about her when she went up against talented Swiss Belinda Bencic, as it took 79 minutes for the 35-year-old American to bat them all away, however.
An emphatic 6-4 6-3 win at Rod Laver Arena provided a near-perfect launch of her bid to clinch a record 23rd grand slam title in the professional era.
Fiance Alexis Ohanian, a social media entrepreneur, was a spectator in the crowd but the wedding plans remain on hold for at least another match.
It can even be much longer if the American great has her way at Melbourne Park.
“I just kept saying that (in) February I’ll start looking at the bigger picture of my life.
“But right now I’m just so focused that this is kind of all I can think about,’’ Williams, seeded second, said.
Former world number seven Bencic, who is expected to have a big future in the game, was supposed to give her opponent something to think about.
She had upset Williams in Toronto in 2015 and became the youngest player to do so in a completed match since a 17-year-old Maria Sharapova felled her at the 2004 WTA Finals.
Bencic trailed 3-1 within minutes of a match that started in oppressive heat on Tuesday but battled back to 4-4 in the first set before Williams changed the game with a single shot.
Pumping her creaky knees to lunge for a wide backhand, Williams’ sliced an improbable cross-court winner past the net-bound Bencic to hold serve.
It was a deflating moment for the 19-year-old, who had been on a roll, she duly dropped the set when Williams fired a return that all but punched a hole through her racket.
Williams roared to 5-0 in the second set with only a late slump stalling her victory march.
Bencic rallied to break Williams a second time and the American double-faulted on her first match point, drawing gasps from the crowd.
But Williams made no mistake with her second, closing it out with a thumping forehand volley to set up a clash against Czech Lucie Safarova.
Safarova, a former world number five and French Open finalist might present a tough test in the second round.
But, after the way she brushed Bencic aside, few would bet against Williams.