Stanford: Serena Williams, playing her first WTA Tour match on US soil since the 2009 US Open, made her return a victorious one with a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Australian Anastasia Rodionova.
Williams, a 13-time Grand Slam champion and former world number one, was unfazed by her unseeded status as she battles to raise a ranking that has plummeted in the wake of a layoff of 11 months with injuries and illness.
The hard court tournament in Stanford is her third event since she won Wimbledon in 2010 and she`s hoping it`s a stepping stone to good things at the last Grand Slam of the season, the US Open in New York starting August 29.
"Personally I have never taken this much time off," said Williams, who returned to action at Eastbourne and then played Wimbledon. "This is totally different from any other time."
Williams, now ranked 169th, encountered little resistance from 105th-ranked Rodionova, who has lost five straight matches.
"It was me being focused," Williams said. "I`ve always said if I play my best no one can beat me. Hopefully I can get back to that level."
Williams plans to play in Cincinnati and Toronto before the US Open. Her main goal, she said, is to play her best and let her ranking look after itself.
"No. 1 is great but I really want to play well," Williams said. "Maybe this whole thing is teaching me to be patient."
In other first-round matches, Russian Maria Kirilenko beat sixth-seeded Julia Goerges of Germany 6-2, 6-3.
Kirilenko, who reached the quarterfinals last year, next faces Williams.
"She`s coming back and she`s winning again," Kirilenko said of Williams. "I need to be focused every minute."
Japan`s Ayumi Morita ousted seventh-seeded Ana Ivanovic of Serbia 6-3, 7-5. Slovakia`s Daniela Hantuchova beat Japanese qualifier Rina Fujiwara 6-0, 6-2.
Fujiwara, 19, was playing her first WTA main draw match. Germany`s Sabine Lisicki beat Romania`s Simona Halep, 6-1, 6-2.
Lisicki, ranked 26th, is coming off a semifinal appearance at Wimbledon, where her 11-match winning streak was halted by Maria Sharapova.
Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and Sharapova are the top two seeds and will be vying to reprise their meeting in the final last year when Azarenka triumphed.
France`s Marion Bartoli and Samantha Stosur of Australia are the third and fourth seeds, and all the top four enjoyed first-round byes.