Sizzling Serena stays hot as Melbourne cools

World number one Serena Williams blasts her way into the last 16 of the Australian Open as rival Li Na escapes defeat.

    Serena Williams en route to victory over Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova [AFP]
    Serena Williams en route to victory over Slovakia's Daniela Hantuchova [AFP]

    World number one Serena Williams made light of scorching temperatures on the fourth and final day of the Melbourne Park heatwave to blast her way into the last 16 of the Australian Open for the loss of just a dozen games.

    Li Na's progress was less imperious and the Chinese fourth seed escaped defeat by a matter of centimetres in her third
    round match.

    A fourth day of temperatures in excess of 42 degrees Celsius (110 degrees Fahrenheit) meant the demand for ice, liquid and sunscreen remained high at Melbourne Park but there was no repeat of Thursday's suspension of play.

    Temperatures are forecast to drop considerably on Saturday, a huge relief to players and organisers alike after four days of rows over what constitutes dangerous conditions.

    "I definitely look forward to playing in the cooler temperatures," said Williams, whose 6-3 6-3 win over Daniela Hantuchova was a record 61st at the Australian Open, taking her past local great Margaret Court's 60.

    Lower expectations

    That Williams achieved her victory in 80 minutes without firing on all cylinders was another warning to her rivals that her sensational form in 2013 was by no means a final flourish at the end of her career.

    "For whatever reason, I feel like I just never was really able to reach my full potential, and I feel like recently I just
    have been able to do a little better," said the 32-year-old, who is in the hunt for her sixth Australian Open title.

    With just the one grand slam title to the American's 17, Li attracts considerably lower expectations but was still expected to deal easily enough with Lucie Safarova on Hisense Arena.

    The Czech, however, raced through the first set 6-1 and then forced a match point in the second, which she failed to convert by the smallest of margins when her backhand down the line was called out, a decision confirmed by Hawk-Eye.

    "I think the five centimetres saved my tournament," said Li, who rallied to win the subsequent tiebreak and then seal 1-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 victory. "If she had hit it in... the whole team would be on the way to the airport."

    SOURCE: Reuters


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