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Serena still creates awe

Serena Williams, above, the last American in either singles draw, was called the “real No. 1” by third-round foe Greta Arn.

Associated Press

Serena Williams, above, the last American in either singles draw, was called the “real No. 1” by third-round foe Greta Arn.

MELBOURNE, Australia — Just before she walked on court, Greta Arn said she was looking forward to the "privilege" of playing her first match against Serena Williams. Some privilege.

The 13-time Grand Slam champion overpowered Arn 6-1, 6-1 in 59 minutes late Saturday for her 17th straight win at the Australian Open.

Arn double-faulted twice to end the match. As the players shook hands at the net, Williams, 30, looked briefly taken aback and smiled.

"I told her it was an honor to play against you," Arn, 32, said. "And she told me, 'Oh, you are so sweet.' I'm a big fan of hers. She's the real No. 1."

Vania King's loss to Ana Ivanovic left Williams as the only American player left in either singles draw. The last American man, John Isner, lost Friday.

"I really don't think when I go out there that I'm the last American," she said. "I just think I'm trying to come in here and win this match, play this girl. That's all I really think about."

Coming off an injury-ravaged 18 months, Williams is seeded 12th. She hasn't held the top ranking since 2010, the year she won the last of her Grand Slam titles. She won back-to-back Australian titles in 2009 and 2010 and was unable to defend the title last year while she recovered from two foot surgeries.

"I'm nowhere near where I want to be," said Williams, who came in nursing a sprained left ankle. "… A little rusty, just trying to play through my rust."

Next up for Williams is unseeded Ekaterina Makarova.

Because of her ranking, Williams can't take the No. 1 spot with a win here. However, No. 2 Petra Kvitova, No. 3 Victoria Azarenka and No. 4 Maria Sharapova could if they were to win the tournament.

Azarenka was a winner early today, beating Iveta Benesova 6-2, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals.

On the men's side, No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic routed Nicolas Mahut 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 in 1 hour, 14 minutes. The defending champion has won 24 straight sets here.

"I always played well in Australia. This is the only Grand Slam I won twice," he said. "The conditions are great. They're very suitable to my style of the game, day and night."

Djokovic next faces Lleyton Hewitt, who beat Milos Raonic 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3.

.Tonight

Australian Open

TV: 7 p.m. Tennis; 9 p.m. ESPN2

Serena still creates awe 01/21/12 [Last modified: Sunday, January 22, 2012 12:06am]

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