A rusty and agitated Serena Williams grimaced her way through an attack of swooping bugs to resume her domination at Melbourne Park with a scratchy 6-3, 6-2 win over Austria's Tamira Paszek at the Australian Open on Tuesday.
Williams, unable to defend her 2009 and 2010 titles last year due to a freak foot injury, found herself dive-bombed by crickets that made merry on a balmy evening at Rod Laver Arena.
"Bugs fell on my back twice," said the 13-times Grand Slam champion, bidding for her sixth title at Melbourne Park.
"I hate bugs more than you can imagine. I hate bugs. Like, they kept jumping on me. I just -- yuck!
"So I'm going to request not to play at night anymore because I hate bugs, except for the final. I heard it's at night, though. I'll try to get used to them."
Williams, who entered Rod Laver Arena with heavy strapping on both ankles and only two matches under her belt in five months, was also irked by her game, with her baseline rockets missing their targets for much of the 79-minute match.
Muttering and cursing, Williams knuckled down enough to break Paszek once in the first set and twice in the second, and closed out the match with her serve on fire and no sign of discomfort from a twisted ankle suffered at the Brisbane International.
Having put on a brave face in the leadup, Williams admitted she had actually torn ankle ligaments and would need to wait and see how it felt in the morning.
"Something was pretty bad. I tore a couple ligaments, so ... But it's all right. I'm in here playing," she said.
Apart from two matches in Brisbane, Williams's previous match was at the US Open in September where she lost to Australia's Sam Stosur in the final after a sensational outburst at the chair umpire.
The 21-year-old Paszek, sensing her opponent's frustration, went toe-to-toe with Williams in a series of fiery baseline duels but was broken in the eighth game before conceding the set.
Williams ratcheted up the pressure at 2-2 in the second set and the Austrian wavered, sending a regulation backhand wide down the tramlines to concede break point before Williams closed it out with a commanding volley and a fist-pump.
Energised, Williams cracked four straight aces to hold serve and sealed the match with another pair of booming serves.
The win was the 13-times Grand Slam champion's 15th in a row at the year's first grand slam. She faces Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the second round.
"Physically I felt fine," said 12th seed Williams.
"I was definitely moving better than I suspected. I still think I can move better, though, and just get that confidence. It would be great."