Miami, USA, 23 March 2012 | AFP-AAP

Serena Williams made a triumphant WTA return in her first tournament match since the Australian Open, defeating China’s Zhang Shuai 6-2 6-3 on Thursday at the WTA and ATP Miami hardcourt event.

Williams, who had been sidelined by a left ankle injury, fired six aces and connected on 64 per cent of her first serves while surrendering only one service break to advance into the third round with an 80-minute triumph.

The 13-time grand slam singles champion will next face Italy’s Roberta Vinci, who ousted Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova 7-5 6-1.

Former World No.1 Williams played for the US Fed Cup team last month, winning two singles matches in a 5-0 World Group II victory over Belarus.

But she had not been in a tour match since losing to Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova in the fourth round at Melbourne Park.

Five-time Miami winner Williams, the 10th seed on the women’s side of the $US9.6 million event, withdrew before her Brisbane quarterfinal match because of the ankle injury in her only other WTA tournament start this year.

Meanwhile, fellow comeback queen Kim Clijsters, also playing in her first event since the Australian Open, ousted German 14th seed Julia Goerges 6-2 7-5 to reach the third round.

Clijsters, returning from an ankle injury sustained in the fourth round of the Australian Open, had too much game for the rangy German, overcoming six double faults to win in just under 90 minutes.

She will next face Belgian compatriot Yanina Wickmayer, who defeated New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic in straight sets.

Second-seeded Russian Maria Sharapova was forced to scrap through her second round match against former world No.11 Shahar Peer, eventually beating the Israeli player 4-6 6-3 6-3.

The gritty Peer, now ranked No.55, pushed last week’s Indian Wells finalist to the limit before eventually succumbing in close to two-and-a-half hours.

Sharapova, who celebrated vociferously following the victory, will next face American qualifier Sloane Stephens. Stephens came through her second consecutive match at Miami in three sets, this time against No.30 seed Sara Errani.