AN angry and impatient Serena Williams overcame blustery conditions at the Brisbane International yesterday in an ominous beginning to her only tournament before her charge at a 16th major title at the Australian Open next month.
The American threw her hands in the air, shook her head, gesticulated towards her coach and stomped her feet in petulant protest - but she still defeated compatriot Varvara Lepchenko 6-2, 6-1 in the first round.
Howling with frustration in her first match since winning the WTA Championships at Istanbul in October, lacking rhythm in swirling winds on Pat Rafter Arena, Williams still delivered enough booming serves and punishing ground strokes to prevail in a formidable if cantankerous display.
The reigning Wimbledon, Olympic and US Open champion said a calendar-year grand slam was very much on her mind at the start of the season.
Williams held all four major titles in the so-called Serena Slam of 2002-2003 but the holy grail of professional tennis is to win the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open tournaments in the same calendar year.
The American claimed world number one Victoria Azarenka and number two Maria Sharapova, and perhaps a few fringe-dwellers, were eyeing the feat not achieved since Steffi Graf did it in 1988.
"I think whoever wins the Australian Open will have that same thought," Williams said.
"I think there is no way that Victoria or Maria or maybe some other players don't have that same thought. I think I definitely feel that way."
Both Azarenka and Sharapova are in a red-hot Brisbane field with Williams. Of the world's top 10, only Agnieszka Radwanska and Li Na are missing.
Sixth-seeded Petra Kvitova had a 6-3, 6-4 win over Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain and will next meet Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who beat Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
In other matches, Australian wildcard entry Jarmila Gajdosova had a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 win over 16th-ranked Roberta Vinci of Italy to set up a second-round match against No. 2-seeded Sharapova. Urszula Radwanska of Poland beat Tamira Paszek of Austria 2-6, 6-0, 6-2 and Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova had a 7-5, 6-2 win over Lourdes Dominguez Lino.