Signs of life from Serena in straight-sets win

MELBOURNE, Australia -- I don't think anyone has built up a ton of confidence yet, but what a big opening match for Serena Williams. Even though it was against a low seed (No. 27 Mara Santangelo), Williams did it in emphatic style, grabbing the match from 2-all in the first set. Serena broke Santangelo to go up 3-2 and then served three aces in a row to take a 4-2 lead and never looked back. After the break of serve and three aces in a row, the match was never contested.

Ten aces in a 6-2, 6-1 match is impressive, and Serena looked like she was moving pretty well; although, let's face it, she still is not in the best shape. Still, considering she played four tournaments last year and all the rust, I thought Serena looked great. Mind you, it's the first major of the year and everybody is a little rusty.

Serena's decision to play Hobart last week was great move. She shook off some of the rust there because she's not in her best condition and hasn't played that many matches. Right now, Serena has to get every advantage and playing last week was a great decision.

For the tournament's sake and for U.S. women's tennis, Serena Williams is crucial -- more so for U.S. women's tennis -- because she's young enough (25) and still good enough that she can become a factor again. And it could happen at the end of these two weeks. Then again, she could also lose to Anne Kremer in the second round.

Serena has never had a first-round loss at a Grand Slam and she showed some signs that there's a possibility for her to be a factor quickly. She's won tournaments out of the blue before: she won her first major (1999 U.S. Open) and last major ('05 Australian) out of the blue. You can't assume anything with her, especially if it gets hot here and if she gets involved in some tough matches. You have to have a fitness level and level of commitment that is just so very high. She needs to prove that to me before I'm a total believer.

ESPN tennis analyst Pam Shriver won 21 singles and 112 doubles crowns, including 22 Grand Slam titles, and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2002.