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Serena swats doubts, Bencic aside to reach second round

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 17/1/17 Serena Williams of the U.S. shakes hands after winning her Women's singles first round match against Switzerland's Belinda Bencic. REUTERS/Jason Reed
Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - 17/1/17 Serena Williams of the U.S. shakes hands after winning her Women's singles first round match against Switzerland's Belinda Bencic. REUTERS/Jason Reed

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Serena Williams launched her bid for a 23rd grand slam title with a 6-4 6-3 win over Belinda Bencic at the Australian Open on Tuesday, swatting aside doubts over her fitness and motivation on a sweltering day at Melbourne Park.

The 35-year-old American came into the tie with two matches under her belt since the U.S. Open last September but moved superbly under a hot sun at Rod Laver Arena to rout the Swiss talent in 79 minutes.

Kept honest for most of the first set, Williams ramped up the pressure at 4-4 to win seven straight games before Bencic stalled her victory charge with a late rally.

Williams wobbled with a double-fault on match point but smashed a volley on her second to close it out and set up a second round clash against Czech Lucie Safarova.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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