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Serena soars in Rio Olympics opening test

August 7, 2016 07:05 PM

By McCarton Ackerman, USTA.com

World No. 1 Serena Williams got her gold medal defense off to a flying start on Sunday at the Rio Olympics, easily moving past rising Australian star Daria Gavrilova in their first-round match, 6-4, 6-2.

The feisty Aussie showed no sign of nerves on Center Court, breaking Williams at love as she served for the first set at 5-3. But the American responded brilliantly by immediately breaking Gavrilova in the next game to grab the opening set. Williams broke her opponent twice more in the second set, hitting a forehand winner on match point to take the win.

Williams is tied with big sister Venus as the most decorated tennis players in Olympic history. They’ve each won four gold medals, with Serena prevailing in singles at the 2012 Olympics and then teaming up with Venus to win gold in women’s doubles in 2000, 2008 and 2012. Venus won singles gold in Sydney in 2000.

Next up for the world No. 1 is Alize Cornet of France. She is even in head-to-head with Cornet at 3-3, but the Frenchwoman has won their last three matches.

Serena and Venus will not be making it a fourth gold in 2016, however. The top seeds lost to the impressive Czech pair of Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova, 6-3, 6-4, in the opening round of the women's doubles.

The Williamses' loss was the lone setback on an otherwise standout day for the American doubles teams. Brian Baker and Rajeev Ram pulled a stunner in men's doubles, defeating the fourth-seed French squad of Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-1, 6-4, and Steve Johnson and Jack Sock also moved into the second round, defeating Chileans Julio Peralta and Hans Podlipnik-Castillo, 6-2, 6-2.

In women's doubles, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and CoCo Vandeweghe recorded a dominant win over Spaniards Anabel Medina Garrigues and Arantxa Parra Santonja, 6-1, 6-1.