AUCKLAND • Serena Williams had not played since losing in the US Open final in September so it was going to take a bit of time to get back into the swing of things.
But her trademark power game remains very much intact. After blasting eight aces en route to a 6-3, 6-2 over Italian Camila Giorgi yesterday to advance to the last 16 of the Auckland WTA Classic, she called her first singles match in over three months a "great start to build on".
The former world No. 1 said: "Spent a long time off from tournament play, so solid is pretty good.
"It's really good that I still have some power left in my arms and my legs."
Williams, who is making her second appearance in Auckland since 2017, was originally drawn to play two-time Grand Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova before the Russian pulled out owing to a virus.
But the American's preparation was not affected as her doubles match with Caroline Wozniacki the previous evening allowed her to adapt to the blustery conditions.
"I knew it was going to be really tough but I think the doubles really helped," she said. "I got to come out here and play a little bit in these conditions and get used to them.
"I'm just taking it a day at a time. I'm just happy to be competing, and I really want to enjoy this year and this tournament, and have fun."
Auckland is the ideal warm-up event for the 38-year-old as she prepares for the Australian Open, which starts on Jan 20, with her eyes firmly on a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title.
While Williams, who fell short despite reaching two Major finals last year, admitted matching Margaret Court's mark has "meant a lot to me for a while" and she remains "confident I'll get there".
She told the WTA website: "Now it's just about getting over that one hump. I'm almost there. It was tough for me. I really felt like I was close, but I didn't really 'show up' in those matches, and so I have to figure out how to compete in those."
Williams, who faces Christina McHale tomorrow, is on course to meet another fellow American in 15-year-old sensation Coco Gauff in the last eight should both advance.
In Perth, Russia sealed their place in the quarter-finals of the ATP Cup after world No. 5 Daniil Medvedev beat Casper Ruud 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) to give them an unassailable 2-0 lead over Norway. Earlier, 17th-ranked Karen Khachanov dispatched Viktor Durasovic 6-2, 6-1.
There was more misery for Alexander Zverev as he fell to his third straight defeat in the competition, losing 6-2, 6-2 to Denis Shapovalov as Canada won the tie in Brisbane 2-1 to eliminate Germany.