They’re friends, they’re former World No. 1s in singles and on Monday they became doubles partners for the first time as Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki teamed to win a first round match at the ASB Classic in Auckland.

Williams and Wozniacki overwhelmed Japan’s Nao Hibino and Mikoto Ninomiya 6-2, 6-4 in a match which was both historic and poignant.

The pair jointly have won 24 Grand Slam titles and 102 WTA singles titles. Williams additionally has won 23 doubles titles, including 13 Gran Slam and three Olympic titles, mostly in partnership with sister Venus.

Serena hasn’t played doubles with anyone other than Venus since 2015 and last played a WTA tournament with anyone other than Venus in 2002.

Wozniacki hasn’t played doubles at all in the last three years. But the pair have long harbored a desire to take the court as a doubles pairing and on Monday they took what may be their last opportunity to do so. Wozniacki is playing the Auckland tournament for the sixth-straight year as a prelude to the Australian Open after which she will retire from competitive tennis.

She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis shortly after winning at Melbourne Park in 2018 and has decided to make the Australian Open her last professional tournament before retirement.

Wozniacki and Williams will face each other one last time in an exhibition match in Copehagen in May which will be Wozniacki’s tennis farewell.

On Monday the pair formed a relaxed and intuitive combination, laughing and exchanging high-fives as they swept past Hibino and Ninomiya in 70 minutes.

Earlier, American teenager Coco Gauff beat Slovakia’s Viktoria Kuzmova 6-3, 6-1 in 61 minutes to stay on course for a quarterfinal meeting with Williams.

Former world number one Garbine Muguruza recovered from a slow start to avoid an upset at the Shenzhen Open on Monday.

The 26-year-old Spaniard beat Chinese youngster Wang Xinyu 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 and plays the American Shelby Rogers in round two in southern China.

Defending champion Aryna Sabalenka made a fast start to her season, blowing away Russian qualifier Margarita Gasparyan in just 71 minutes.

The world number 11 from Belarus eased to a 6-3, 6-0 victory as she looks to seal a place inside the top 10 for the Australian Open.

The 21-year-old will play Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic next.

Gasparyan, 25, reached a career-high 41 in the world in February 2016 but has been beset by injuries.

Collins stuns Svitolina

American Danielle Collins stunned former champion Elina Svitolina 6-1, 6-1 in the opening round of the Brisbane International on Monday as Germany’s Angelique Kerber also bowed out.

Earlier, home favourite Samantha Stosur upset former world number one Kerber 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) in a tight clash between former Grand Slam champions.

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