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Serena shrugs off injury scares to open new season with convincing victory

December 30, 2012 -- Updated 2008 GMT (0408 HKT)
Serena Williams on her way to a convincing first round victory at the Brisbane International.
Serena Williams on her way to a convincing first round victory at the Brisbane International.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Serena Williams starts new tennis season with straight sets win
  • She beats Varvara Lepchenko 6-2 6-1 in first round of Brisbane International.
  • 15-time grand slam champion has had foot surgery
  • Sister Venus stars as United States beat South Africa in Hopman Cup

(CNN) -- Serena Williams shrugged off injury concerns to win her first match of the new WTA season in convincing fashion in Brisbane Sunday.

The 15-time grand slam champion pulled out of an exhibition tournament in Thailand last week but showed she had fully recovered from a recent foot surgery with a 6-2 6-1 win over fellow American Varvara Lepchenko 6-2 6-1.

"My foot didn't hurt today," a Williams told the official Brisbane International website.

"I was a little nervous, but I was completely fine."

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Williams finished 2012 in ominous form, winning Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the season-ending WTA Championship, as well as taking double Olympic gold in London.

Read: Serena and Sharapova fight injuries ahead of new season

It was a return to her very best after an 18-month layoff through injury and illness, but she is only third in the world rankings due to previous inactivity and results.

The two women above, top seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and Russia's Maria Sharapova, have both received first round byes for the tournament on the Gold Coast, which also hosts an ATP Tour event.

In other action Sunday, former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova made an impressive start with a 6-3 6-4 win over Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro.

Poland's Urszula Radwanska beat Tamira Paszek of Austria 2-6 6-0 6-2, while home hope Jarmila Gajdosova shocked world number 16 Roberta Vinci of Italy 4-6 6-1 6-3 to set up a clash with second seed Sharapova.

Meanwhile, the elder sister of Serena Williams, seven-time grand slam winner Venus Williams, played a key role in a 2-1 win for the United States over South Africa in Perth.

Williams, who has battled injuries and illness, came from a set down to beat Chanelle Scheepers 4-6 6-2 6-3 in the opening rubber.

Kevin Anderson beat John Isner in straight sets to draw the South Africans level before the concluding mixed doubles.

Williams and Isner combined to Anderson and Scheepers 6-3 6-2 to secure victory in the mixed team event.

In the other match on the second day of competition, Spain beat France 2-1.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga put France ahead as he beat Fernando Verdasco 7-5 6-3, but Anabel Medina Garrigues leveled it for Spain with a 6-3 6-2 win over Mathilde Johansson.

Once again the mixed doubles proved the decider and Medina Garrigues and Verdasco paired to see off Johansson and Tsonga (FRA) 6-3 6-3.

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