MELBOURNE, Australia – Serena Williams cautiously walked onto the court Thursday and tried to keep the points short to avoid irritating her injured right ankle as she advanced to the third round at the Australian Open.
Summoning all her experience from 15 major titles, including the final two of the last season, Williams lifted her tempo on the biggest points — winning an 18-minute game to open the second set, finally cashing in on her fourth break chance. Nineteen minutes later she finished off a 6-2, 6-0 win over No. 112-ranked Garine Muguruza of Spain.
Apart from a swollen lip from hitting herself in the face with her racket in the sixth game, she emerged unscathed.
“It feels better,” Williams said of her ankle. Before the match “I was just doing everything you can do — icing to massage. I woke up this morning and thought … ‘Oh my God, it feels good.’
“I’ll keep my fingers crossed.”
Despite the injury concerns, Williams said she would be playing doubles later with sister Venus, and will play her next singles match against Japan’s Ayumi Morita on Saturday.
Defending champion Victoria Azarenka practically danced into Rod Laver Arena for the match before Willliams’ victory, and said she’s starting to find some rhythm after beating Eleni Daniilidou 6-1, 6-0 in 55 minutes.
With temperatures expected to top 102 degrees, Azarenka didn’t want to be out in the heat.
“I felt like I’m back into the competitive mode,” she said. “I was really focused — that was for sure the best part of the game for me.”
The No. 94-ranked Daniilidou only won 10 points in the first set and was shut out in the second despite having triple break point in the fourth game.
The top-ranked Azarenka had her friend and musician RedFoo in the stands watching and signing autographs, and said she went onto the court listening to a “great mix of disco music and a little bit of new music. I really start to like it a lot — there’s no words really.”
Azarenka, 23, won her first Grand Slam title in Melbourne last year, during a 26-match winning streak to start the season.
“It’s pretty difficult to duplicate something like that,” she said. “All I can do is try.”
She didn’t win another major in 2012, dropping the U.S. Open final against Serena Williams, but held the No. 1 ranking for most of the season.
Also advancing were No. 14 Maria Kirilenko, who beat China’s Peng Shuai 7-5, 6-2, No. 16 Roberta Vinci and Elena Vesnina, who beat No. 21-seeded Varvara Lepchenko of the United States 6-4, 6-2.
On the men’s side, 2008 Australian finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Japan’s Go Soeda 6-3, 7-6 (1), 6-3, No. 17 Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany edged Israeli qualifier Amir Weintraub 6-2, 7-6 (4,) 6-4 and Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis ousted No. 25 Florian Mayer, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1.
The lopsided wins for Azarenka and Serena Williams came a day after No. 2-ranked Maria Sharapova recorded her second 6-0, 6-0 win of the tournament.
Sharapova overwhelmed Japan’s Misaki Doi in 47 minutes, even less time than she needed to beat fellow Russian Olga Puchkova two days earlier in her first competitive match of 2013.
The first woman to post back-to-back 6-0, 6-0 wins at a Grand Slam since 1985 next plays seven-time major winner Venus Williams in the third round.
To Sharapova, her first two wins have been a matter of “getting the job done.” She was recovering from a sore right collarbone that ruled her out of a tuneup event in Brisbane.