Serena Williams joked that she has been living on a diet of grass to get herself in shape for a clay court season that began for her in highly satisfactory fashion.
Looking in good shape and highly mobile, she eased past Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson 6-4, 6-2 to make the second round of the Italian Open in Rome.
She could yet meet Jo Konta, providing the younger sibling comes through one of those awkward matches against sister Venus that is her second round match-up. For the second time in eight days Konta played American Alison Riske, and beat her by the exact same scoreline as before, 6-4, 6-1.
Williams had not played since March 22, after which she withdrew from her third round match at the Miami Open. This is her only preparatory tournament for the French Open and early last week she was seen in a stunning yellow dress attending the Met Gala in New York.
While the description of her recent sparing eating habits was lighthearted she is evidently serious about giving herself the best chance of making a run at the French Open and Wimbledon, with no sign of a knee injury that has been troubling her.
‘When you’re sedentary it becomes hard to manage your body so basically you have to just eat grass. That’s what I did, it was a nightmare,’ said Williams, who served 10 aces. ‘It’s been awful. I’ve been working as hard as I could keeping up my cardio as much as I could with a knee injury.’
While Cam Norrie ground his way to a satisfying victory Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans both lost their first rounds from winning positions, and will take different views of their experience in Rome.
The British No 1 slumped to a fifth successive defeat on what is meant to be a good surface for him, subsiding to lose 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 to Spain’s Fernando Verdasco from 4-1 up in the second set.
As seen of late, Edmund was playing well enough to a certain point, but his confidence has descended to such a level that he lost 10 straight games from when the winning post came into sight. It seems that he is unlikely to try and play a tournament next week to try and arrest his slide ahead of Roland Garros.
Were he to lose early there it is unlikely he will be among the 32 seeds at Wimbledon.
Evans did well to come through qualifying to make the main draw and led by a break at 3-2 in the decider against Casper Ruud. The Norwegian’s natural clay court prowess eventually saw him home 7-5, 0-6, 6-3 as Evans faded.
Norrie also emerged from the preliminaries, and scored his third win in three days when he overcame Australian John Millman 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. He now faces tough Croatian Borna Coric, the number thirteen seed, while Konta’s latest win earned her a shot at 2018 Paris finalist Sloane Stephens.