SERENA Williams says she may not have been able to play in the Australian Open had it not been pushed back by three weeks.
The first Grand Slam of the year was delayed to allow players to quarantine.
Williams, chasing a record-equalling 24th major singles title next week, said she “needed the extra time” to fully recover from an Achilles injury sustained at the US Open in September.
She and Britain’s Katie Boulter won their openers as warm-up events began.
The two are playing in the Gippsland Trophy – one of six events running simultaneously at Melbourne Park this week to allow players to prepare for the Australian Open.
Boulter, playing in just her second WTA main draw match since February 2019, beat Russia’s Anna Kalinskaya 6-1 6-3.
Williams claimed a a 6-1 6-4 victory over Australia’s Daria Gavrilova.
“I don’t think I would have been here if it was during the regular season,” the 39-year-old American said.
“Achilles are like the worst thing, honestly. Oh my goodness, I didn’t realise it would be this long.
“I definitely was pushing the limits, but I’m here.”
The fifth seed will play Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova in the last 16.
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