Serena Williams steamrolls Daria Gavrilova in Cincinnati return

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Former world number one and 23-time grand slam winner Serena Williams (Getty Images)

Serena Williams made an emphatic return to the court as the 23-time grand slam champion blitzed Daria Gavrilova in straight sets at the WTA Cincinnati Masters.

Williams skipped the Rogers Cup in Montreal last week after suffering the worst defeat of her career at the hands of Johanna Konta in the opening round of the Silicon Valley Classic. The former world No. 1 also shared the emotional challenges she has faced since becoming a mother to daughter, Alexis Olympia, in September.

But Williams, a Wimbledon finalist last month, returned to her winning ways thanks to a 6-1, 6-2 rout of Australia’s Gavrilova in her first-round match Monday.

Looking sharper and relaxed, Williams came out with a point to prove. The big-hitting veteran converted a break point at the third time of asking for an early 2-0 lead. The 36-year-old continued do no wrong, overpowering the helpless Gavrilova with 14 winners and just four errors in a lopsided first set wrapped up in less than 30 minutes.

Gavrilova looked uncomfortable and out of place on the big stage against Williams, who continued where she left off in the second set.

There was no stopping Williams as the two-time Cincinnati champion earned a second-round showdown with eighth seed and two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova.