MELBOURNE, Australia -- The difference in 12 months was easy to see.
Serena Williams, wearing fuchsia bicycle shorts and headband, a short white dress and dangling, chandelier-inspired earrings, found her form quickly and beat Jarmila Gajdosova, 6-3, 6-3, today in the first match in the Australian Open.
Last year, Williams was unseeded, ranked 81st and coming off one of her worst losses on tour - in a Tier 4 event at Hobart - yet she beat six seeded players en route to the title at Melbourne Park. It was her eighth, and least expected, Grand Slam title.
Expectations are much higher this season.
"It's obviously a lot different - I'm not No. 81 anymore," Williams told the crowd after her 62-minute match at Rod Laver Arena against wild-card entry Gajdosova, a Slovak who is representing Australia. "I thought about last year, you know, my last match on that court [and how] I was able to win it."
Top-seeded Justine Henin, in her first match at Melbourne Park since retiring from the 2006 final against Amelie Mauresmo, won the final six games to defeat Aiko Nakamura, 6-2, 6-2, for her 29th consecutive win.
In an early men's match, Mardy Fish, who combined with Williams in the United States' Hopman Cup-winning team this month, beat Serbia's Boris Pashanski, 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.