Serena Williams was dragged into a second set scrap by unheralded Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck but put down the minor threat with some powerful serving to reach the second round of the Australian Open with a 6-0 6-4 win on Tuesday.
Having roared through the first set, Williams was on the back foot as the 106th-ranked 20-year-old went for broke, attacking the world number one’s serve and pushing her behind the baseline.
However, Williams held firm and crunched an imperious backhand winner on return to seal the contest as her opponent served to stay in the match.
Williams will play Vera Zvonareva in the second round.
Meanwhile Victoria Azarenka continued her love affair with the bright blue courts of Melbourne Park as the unseeded two-time former champion cruised to a 6-3, 6-2 first round victory over Sloane Stephens.
Azarenka, 25, showed she will be a dangerous floater in the draw after being unseeded at a grand slam for the first time since the 2007 US Open following a run of injuries that restricted her to just nine tournaments last year.
She broke the 21-year-old American three times in the first set to clinch it in 29 minutes, and while Stephens fought off five break points in the second game of the second set, her resistance then faded and the tall Belarusian romped to the win.
It is the third successive year Azarenka has beaten Stephens at Melbourne Park, the only place they have met on the WTA circuit, and she will next play eighth seed Caroline Wozniacki, another former world No1.
The Dane was made to work hard in the first set by American Taylor Townsend before lifting in the second to win 7-6 (7-1), 6-2.
“You’re always a little bit nervous - it’s the first grand slam of the year,” said Wozniacki. “You like to start off well.”
Last year's runner-up Dominika Cibulkova overcame a first-set blip to beat Belgian Kirsten Flipkens 3-6, 6-3, 6-1. The Slovakian is seeded 11th, having enjoyed her best year on the tour in 2014.