MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Serena Williams launched her bid for a 23rd grand slam title with a 6-4 6-3 win over Belinda Bencic at the Australian Open on Tuesday, swatting aside doubts over her fitness and motivation on a sweltering day at Melbourne Park.
The 35-year-old American came into the tie with two matches under her belt since the U.S. Open last September but moved superbly under a hot sun at Rod Laver Arena to rout the Swiss talent in 79 minutes.
Kept honest for most of the first set, Williams ramped up the pressure at 4-4 to win seven straight games before Bencic stalled her victory charge with a late rally.
Williams wobbled with a double-fault on match point but smashed a volley on her second to close it out and set up a second round clash against Czech Lucie Safarova.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)