PERTH, Australia — Serena Williams stepped up her Australian Open preparations with a straight-sets victory over Britain’s Katie Boulter on Thursday to complete an unbeaten Hopman Cup campaign.
Williams cooled off after a strong start but prevailed with a 6-1, 7-6 (2) victory in 78 minutes to level the tie between the United States and Britain in Group B.
The 37-year-old’s hopes for a record third Hopman Cup title ended when the United States were eliminated after losses to Greece and Roger Federer-led Switzerland.
Williams slowly built momentum in her first tournament back since melting down at the U.S. Open Final in September as she eyes a record-equaling 24th Grand Slam singles title in Melbourne.
“It was definitely good to play three singles matches here, and the mixed (doubles),” Williams said.
A sluggish Williams started slowly in victories over Maria Sakkari and Belinda Bencic, but breezed through the first set against a beleaguered Boulter in just 24 minutes.
Watched on by her daughter Alexis Olympia, the sweet-hitting Williams found her groove through an array of powerful forehand winners to overwhelm the 97th-ranked British player.
The one-sided contest took a surprising turn when Boulter broke Williams early in the second set but she was unable to consolidate on serve. Williams was made to work before putting the foot down in the tiebreak.
Earlier, Cameron Norrie upset Frances Tiafoe 7-6 (4), 6-0. It ended a miserable tournament for the 20-year-old Tiafoe, who won just one set in his three matches.
The No. 91-ranked Norrie was impressive in Perth, highlighted by defeating Greece’s No. 15-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas in his opening match.
ZADAR, Croatia – Serena Williams isn’t getting much support from the men on the United States’ Davis Cup team over her insinuation that sexism played a role in the code violations she received during the U.S. Open final.
Then again, Steve Johnson, Mike Bryan and Ryan Harrison are trying their best to stay out of the debate since Carlos Ramos, the chair umpire who penalized Williams, is also handling their best-of-five semifinal series against Croatia this weekend.
U.S. captain Jim Courier tells The Associated Press “it’s been polarized and in some ways politicized. But we have no doubt that Carlos was just enforcing the rules as he sees them.”
USTA president and CEO Katrina Adams was overheard apologizing to Ramos on the sidelines of Thursday’s draw ceremony.
Williams was given three code violations by Ramos in the straight-set loss to Naomi Osaka on Saturday, and Williams and critics inside and outside of tennis argued that she wasn’t treated the same as some male players.
Johnson says “I don’t want this to come out the wrong way, but he enforced rules that have been enforced on me over the years.”
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — It has never happened before: an opening-round match pitting a player who just won her first tennis title against a 23-time Grand Slam champion.
Naomi Osaka, a rising star who won Indian Wells on Sunday, will face Serena Williams in the first round of the Miami Open on Wednesday. It’s a freakishly difficult way for both players to start a tournament.
“The luck of the draw,” tournament director James Blake said Monday. “It’s great in one sense – we have an unbelievable blockbuster match for Wednesday. But one of them is going to be gone unfortunately by Thursday.”
The marquee matchup at the outset of the two-week tournament came about because neither player is seeded. Osaka is ranked a career-best No. 22, while Williams is ranked No. 491 after becoming a mother and returning to the tour at Indian Wells following a layoff of more than a year.
Osaka, a 20-year-old slugger from Japan, earned the biggest victory her career when she beat Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-2 in the Indian Wells final. Along with the title she won $1.3 million, nearly doubling her career earnings.
Serena lost in the third round at Indian Wells to her sister Venus. An eight-time Key Biscayne champion, Serena enters the tournament as a wild card and has never faced Osaka.
“We’ll see a lot of heavy hitting,” Blake said. “Both of them hit the ball so big. There are a lot of story lines. How is Naomi going to react to winning her first big title? There’s the cross-country flight. Is she going to be nervous playing Serena now that expectations are higher?”
Osaka lost just one set at Indian Wells and beat Maria Sharapova and top-ranked Simona Halep en route to the title.
“But anyone who is counting Serena out,” Blake said, “is doing so at their peril.”