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Australian Open: Master blaster Serena puts rivals on notice

Melbourne: Top seed Serena Williams blasted her way into the Australian Open second round with a power-hitting masterclass on Monday, sending an ominous warning to her rivals at Melbourne Park. The American has been talking tough ahead of the season-opening Grand Slam and emphatically backed up her words with a 6-0, 6-4 win over world number 106 Alison Van Uytvanck.

The 20-year-old Belgian was like a deer in the headlights as 18-time Grand Slam champion Williams unloaded, effortlessly breaking her serve and firing down thunderbolts of her own. Williams took the opening game in just 60 seconds and wrapped up the first set in 21 minutes.

Van Uytvanck rallied in the second to defend her serve but it only delayed the inevitable and Williams pointedly made a "number one" gesture after wrapping up the win in just over an hour. There was none of the listlessness the 33-year-old showed earlier this month at the Hopman Cup, but early-season form means little to Williams, who won one of her five Australian titles when she was ranked 81 in the world.

A sixth Australian Open title would take her to clear second on the all-time Grand Slam winners list behind Steffi Graf's 22, having joined Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on 18 with her win at the US Open last year. "It's in the back of my mind, but there's other players who want to win this tournament as well," she said. "If I could get to 19 in Australia that would be beyond amazing, so we'll see. I have a lot of work to do but I'm just going to enjoy myself."

The American has held on to the top ranking for 100 consecutive weeks, one of only four women to do so, but could lose it if the results do not do her way at Melbourne Park. She won the last of her Australian titles in 2010 and said ahead of the tournament that the frustrating wait for a sixth meant no other player in the 128-strong field could match her desire to win. Williams will play Russia's Vera Zvonareva in the second round.

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