MELBOURNE, Australia — Serena Williams cautiously walked onto the court early today, 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 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 with sister Venus today, 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 long.
“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. 94th-ranked Daniilidou won only 10 points in the first set and was shut out in the second despite having a triple break point in the fourth game.
Top-ranked Azarenka won her first Grand Slam title in Melbourne last year, during a 26-match winning streak to start the season.
U.S. Open champion Andy Murray had another easy win, a 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Joao Sousa of Portugal.
Murray, who ended a 76-year drought by British men in Grand Slam tournaments with his win at Flushing Meadows last year, dropped only seven games in his opening match against Robin Haase of the Netherlands.
The third-seeded Murray didn’t allow Sousa a single break point chance in steamy conditions.
Standing in the way of a potential second Grand Slam title for Murray is a likely semifinal against No. 2 Roger Federer, who was to play his second-round match later when the hot daytime temperatures were expected to subside.