Tennis icon Serena Williams earned her first victory in more than three months by beating 17-year-old qualifier Lisa Pigato 6-3, 6-2 in the first round of the Emilia-Romagna Open in Parma, Italy.
The 39-year-old accepted a wild-card invitation for the Parma tournament after losing her opening match at the Italian Open. She came and dominated, easing past her competitor after dropping her serve in the opening game.
“I’m just starting to feel more comfortable. I’ve always felt super comfortable on the clay and this year has been a little more difficult than normal,” said Williams, who served six aces. “I think it was because of the long hiatus I’ve had (from) the clay.”
Williams hadn’t won since beating Simona Halep in the Australian Open quarterfinals in February. She was then eliminated from the year’s first Grand Slam tournament by Naomi Osaka in the semifinals.
After taking some time off, Williams then lost in straight sets in Rome to Nadia Podoroska, a French Open semifinalist last year.
With her sights set, Williams is now preparing for Roland Garros, which starts in two weeks.
Ranked No. 572, Pigato won the girls’ doubles title at last year’s French Open with Eleonora Alvisi. It was the first WTA match for Pigato and the 1,001st for Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam champion.
After Williams’ victory, Pigato asked her to immediately pose for a photo with her on-court after the match ended.
“It was really cool and gutsy,” Williams said. “She’s going to look back (in) years and be like, `Well, this was my first match.’ I wish I had done that with my first match, it would have been really cool.”
Williams will next face 68th-ranked Katerina Siniakova, who eliminated Danish teenager Clara Tauson 6-1, 6-3.
In additional matches at the Parma tournament, former U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens beat Catherine McNally 7-6 (4), 6-4 and Anna Karolina Schmiedlova rallied past Venus Williams 5-7, 6-2, 6-2.