MELBOURNE, Australia — Serena Williams cautiously walked onto the court, 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.”
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.
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.”
The 23-year-old Belarusian 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.
The temperature hit 93 degrees during her match, the first of the day on the center court.