Serena Williams fell behind 3-1 in the first set before opening her clay court season with a routine 6-4, 6-2 win over Swedish qualifier Rebecca Peterson on Monday in the first round of the Italian Open.
After a shaky start, Williams began to take control with her baseline power on a windy day at the Foro Italico. When she ran down a passing attempt from Peterson and replied with a cross-court winner to break for a 5-2 lead in the second set, she let out a scream and bent over as she pumped both of her fists.
Williams was playing for the first time since withdrawing ahead of her third-round match at the Miami Open in March because of a left knee injury. The last time Williams had played in Rome was when she won the last of her four Italian Open trophies in 2016.
Meanwhile, Johanna Konta will face American Sloane Stephens in the second round after a straight-sets win over her compatriot Alison Riske. Konta took fewer than 90 minutes to defeat Riske 6-4 6-1 in the first round on Monday.
The British No 1 beat 2017 US Open champion Stephens in Brisbane in January, their only previous meeting.
Others advancing on the women’s side included Dominika Cibulkova, Katerina Siniakova and Yulia Putintseva.
In the men’s draw, Kyle Edmund bowed out after a first-round defeat to Fernando Verdasco. Edmund took the first set 6-4, but Spaniard Verdasco hit back to win the second and third 6-4, 6-2 and wrapped up victory in two hours and 23 minutes. The 2010 Rome semi-finalist, who converted five of the 16 break points he earned against the Briton, will meet fifth seed Dominic Thiem in the second round.
In other action, 13th-seeded Borna Ćorić rallied past Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4 in a clash of two of the top young players on tour. Auger-Aliassime struggled with his serve, hitting seven double-faults to Ćorić’s one.