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Serena Williams books her place in the second round but is the pressure of number 23 getting to her?

The American tennis star has her sights set on a record 23rd grand slam.

Williams is hoping to surpass Steffi Graff's 22-grand slam record.
Williams is hoping to surpass Steffi Graff's 22-grand slam record.

WORLD NUMBER TWO Serena Williams overcame talented Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic as she progressed to the second round of the Australian Open, seeking a record 23rd grand slam.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing.

Bencic undoubtedly put it up to the six-time Australian Open champion, presenting her with a late fightback and an overall testing opening round.

Williams withstood the challenge however, along with the scorching temperatures in Melbourne to beat the 19-year-old 6-4 6-3.

Up a set and leading 5-0 in the second, last year’s runner up had to dig deep as the teenage sensation rallied her way to winning three consecutive games.

The 22-time grand slam champion then went on to serve two double faults before closing out the match, raising concerns that the pressure of number 23 may be getting to her.

There was also the fact that she may be rusty following a prolonged spell on the sidelines due to shoulder problems. A shock second-round defeat in the Aukland Classic earlier this month to fellow American Madison Brengle raised questions before this year’s opening grand slam tournament, posing the theory that pressure may be getting the better of the 35-year-old.

William’s greatness was not to be denied however, as she regained her composure and fought back accordingly to progress to the next stage of the competition, her next opponent in the form of Czech Lucie Safarova.

Interestingly Safarova made up half of the Czech Republic’s doubles team alongside Barbara Strycova that knocked Serena and her sister Venus out of the first round of the women’s doubles at the Rio Olympics.

Australian Open Tennis Williams and Bencic after the match. Source: Andy Brownbill

She hit back at critics and responded to the threat from Bencic, claiming the match point with a great volley and making a statement in doing so that she won’t give up on her quest for number 23 just yet.

There’s no doubt that William’s dominated and showed that she’s a true champion, but in a way, it was a somewhat laboured performance by the American as she made more work of the match than needed be.

“It was one of the toughest first-round matches I have ever played,” she admitted afterwards.

“I think it was pretty good. I mean, she’s [Bencic] a really good player. So I think I was able to start out well.”

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