Rust-free Serena secures slick victory

Serena Williams shrugs off disrupted preparation for Australian Open as clutch of big names all go through in Melbourne.

    Serena said she 'wasn't meant to be a ballerina' after struggling against ankle problems in her win [GALLO/GETTY]

    Serena Williams brushed aside Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-0 6-4 in just over an hour to reach the third round of the Australian Open.

    Budding Hollywood actor Novak Djokovic led the way with a 6-3 6-2 6-1 demolition of Santiago Giraldo, while Andy Murray and Maria Sharapova also went through.
    Five-times champion Williams was unable to aim for a hat-trick of titles last year due to injury and there were concerns she would not be ready for the season's first grand slam after pulling out of the Brisbane International with her sore ankle.
    After shaking off the rust in the first round against Tamira Paszek, Williams was on song from the outset on Thursday, blasting baseline winners past Strycova and racing through the first set in just 22 minutes.

    Her Czech opponent won her first service game of the second set, eliciting enthusiastic applause from the crowd, but the Williams response was predictable, the 30-year-old winning her next serve to love and breaking Strycova to go 3-1 up.

    Williams had her first wobble while serving for the match at 5-3, giving Strycova a sniff of hope, and the American looked in trouble when a change of direction left her sitting on the sun-baked court grimacing.

    But Williams, with lattice-work strapping snaking up from her injured left ankle to behind her knee, got back to her feet and promptly broke Strycova's serve to seal the set 6-4 and earn her place in the third round.

    Tougher tests

    Williams, who racked up her 500th match win with the victory, said her ankle was still causing her problems, a potential issue for tougher tests ahead.

    "It's fine, I just have really wobbly ankles," she said in a televised interview. "I wasn't meant to be a ballerina or anything."

    Much has been made of Williams' fight to stay healthy after a catalogue of injuries kept her off court for most of last year, but the world number 12 said she felt fine and that her tumble on Thursday had not exacerbated her ankle issue.

    Williams, who will play Dominika Cibulkova or Greta Arn in the next round, thought it was "really, really cool" to have reached 500 wins but had no plans to rest on her laurels.

    "The first thing I asked, of course, 'Is there anyone that achieved 1,000?' I guess not. I never will get there either.

    "Five hundred is a lot of matches to play, let alone to win, so it's pretty cool."

    Djokovic makes his acting bow in the blockbuster "The Expendables 2" later this year but the defending champion showed that he had lost none of his appetite for his day job with an emphatic second round victory at Melbourne Park.

    Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams earlier swept into the third round to rumblings about the lack of depth in the women's game but second seed Petra Kvitova bucked the trend when her second round match threatened to turn into a horror show.


    Scot Andy Murray, the losing finallist for the last two years here, was also in imposing form as he despatched Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-1 6-4 6-4.

    Djokovic revealed after his match that he gets into a fight in his movie debut and, if the first film in the series is anything to go by, it is likely to be more of a dramatic tussle than the crowd on Rod Laver Arena witnessed on Thursday.

    "A win is a win however it comes to you. I try obviously to not underestimate any opponents in early rounds," the Serbian told reporters afterwards.

    "Santiago came out early hitting the ball quite flat but I knew that sooner or later he's going to drop the rhythm and I just have to hang in there. I've done a good job."

    Sharapova, the 2008 champion, took just 64 minutes to crush American qualifier Jamie Hampton 6-0 6-1.

    The third former winner in the women's draw, defending champion Kim Clijsters, progressed with a 6-0 6-1 victory on the same Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday.

    While a dreaded "double bagel" 6-0 6-0 defeat has yet to be doled out this year, the rash of lop-sided contests has once again prompted questions about the gap in quality between the best and the rest in women's tennis.

    The performance of Kvitova's 58th-ranked opponent Carla Suarez Navarro was a riposte to those questions as she forced the Wimbledon champion to fight back from a break down in the third set to salvage a 6-2 2-6 6-4 win.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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