Melbourne: The second-seeded Williams, whose most recent title at Melbourne Park came in 2015, overcame the heat on centre court to dispense of the 59th-ranked Bencic 6-4, 6-3 in one hour and 19 minutes.
Williams, 35, did not close out the match in the most convincing fashion, losing three successive games from 5-0 in the second set, but she was never in danger of not progressing to the next round.
“She’s (Bencic) such a great player. She was just recently in the top 10 so she’s been playing great,” Williams said in a courtside interview.
Williams has at least made the second round in each of previous 16 appearances at the Open and she faces Lucie Safarova in the last 64. Safarova needed three sets to beat Yanina Wickmayer 3-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-1. Wayward serves were the only concern for Safarova’s fellow Czech and world number five, Karolina Pliskova, as she booked her place in the second round.
Just half of her first serves landed in but she had little trouble controlling the court once the ball was in play, thrashing Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-2, 6-0. Pliskova was ruthless on the Spaniard’s serve, breaking her all but one time, as she closed out the match in a tick over an hour on Rod Laver Arena. The US Open runner-up, whose preparation included winning the Brisbane International earlier this month, admitted nerves had played a part in the centre-court match but was pleased to come away with an easy win.
“Hopefully the next match will be much better,” Pliskova said.
“I feel good especially when after I won a tournament in the first week of the year (Brisbane International).”
Among the other seeds playing on day two, Briton Johanna Konta, seeded ninth, defeated Kirsten Flipkens 7-5, 6-2. Milos Raonic loped into the second round of the men’s draw with a comfortable 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Germany’s Dustin Brown on Margaret Court Arena.
The third seed, a semi-finalist in Melbourne 12 months ago, never appeared to get out of second gear against the dreadlocked Brown, breaking once in each of the first two sets and then twice in the third to clinch victory in an hour and 33 minutes. Raonic was rarely stretched throughout the match against Brown, whose economy of movement belied a good all-court game and soft touch at the net. Soon after, 2009 champion Rafael Nadal brushed aside German veteran Florian Mayer.
The ninth seed won 6-3, 6-4, 604 to set up a second-round match-up with 2006 runner-up Marcos Baghdatis.
The highly rated Alexander Zverev, seeded 24th, took five sets to beat Robin Haase 6-2, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2. Frenchman Gilles Simon, the 25th seed, advanced to the second round with a 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 triumph over Michael Mmoh.