Serena wins again to cap Open preparation
SERENA Williams has signed off on her official Australian Open preparations with her third singles win at the Hopman Cup in Perth.
The US paining of Williams and Frances Tiafoe can't make it to Saturday's final of the mixed teams event, but the former world No.1 shrugged off a couple of apparent niggles to get through her return to tennis.
The 23-time grand slam champion is on the comeback trail, having not played in a WTA tournament since losing the US Open final to Naomi Osaka.
Williams' only match since then, apart from her Hopman Cup clashes, was a one-off exhibition match against sister Venus in Abu Dhabi last month.
With the Australian Open only 11 days away, Williams was far from her best on Thursday, but beat Great Britain youngster Katie Boulter 6-1 7-6 (7-2) in 78 minutes.
The American ace seemed to struggle with her right shoulder throughout the week and stretched it out a couple of times early against Boulter.
But her right ankle, which she had strapped during practice, did not appear to be troubling her.
Boulter, ranked 97 in the world, frequently won points on Williams' serve and broke it in the second set. But she was outclassed by Williams in the tiebreak.
Williams, ranked 16, sent down 20 winners and 19 unforced errors and clearly already had her focus set on Melbourne Park.
"It was perfect - it's just like this in Melbourne. It's the exact same sun and it gives me so many problems," she said.
"After you serve, you are blind for the next two points.
"It was good to play three matches here, singles, not to mention the mixed doubles."
Williams dropped a set to Switzerland's Belinda Bencic on Tuesday, but beat Maria Sakkari of Greece in straight sets on Monday.
Cameron Norrie overcame a slow start to beat Tiafoe 7-6 (7-5) 6-0 in the men's singles rubber on Thursday. Norrie breezed through the second set to win in just 69 minutes.
While the mixed doubles will be a live rubber, it will have no bearing on which country will win Group B and make it through to Saturday's final.
The Swiss pair of Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic have already earned their chance to defend the title they won last summer.