Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Sports

Serena Williams advances at Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia — Serena Williams matched a Margaret Court record at the Australian Open early today as she advanced to the third round with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Vesna Dolonc.

Williams improved to 60-8 at Melbourne Park, equaling Court's 60 match wins in the Open era at the Australian championship.

During the 63-minute match, Williams fended off the only break point she faced against the No. 104-ranked Dolonc with an ace late in the second set.

Court, who won seven of her 11 Australian titles before the Open era began in 1968, has a show court named in her honor adjacent to Rod Laver Arena.

Two fans held up a sign saying center court was "Serena's Arena."

Despite having trouble at times on her ball toss when she was looking into the sun, Williams had 10 aces, won 85 percent of points when she got her first serve in and hit 24 winners, sticking to the strategy for a hot day as she extended her winning streak to 24 matches.

"I just try to hit a bunch of aces and a bunch of winners — that's all you can do because it's too hot to get into long rallies," she said.

Li Na also advanced, completing back-to-back wins over the two youngest players in the draw.

Li, who turns 32 next month, raced through the first set against 16-year-old Belinda Bencic in 22 minutes, conceding just 10 points. She had to work harder in the second, winning 6-0, 7-6 (7-5).

In the first round, Li routed Ana Konjuh, 16,.

Li is from Wuhan, one of three cities in central China renowned for hot temperatures, and said the 104-degree temperature didn't bother her in the 1-hour, 20-minute second-round match: "It's warm, but it's okay."

Li, a two-time finalist at Melbourne Park, next meets No. 26 Lucie Safarova, who beat qualifier Lucie Hradecka 6-7 (4-7), 6-3, 6-0.

The heat rule went into effect allowing No. 15-seeded Sabine Lisicki and Monica Niculescu a 10-minute break after the second set. Niculescu returned to win 2-6, 6-2, 6-2.

Niculescu will next play No. 22 Ekaterina Makarova, who followed up her first-round win over Venus Williams with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over American Irina Falconi.

No. 7 Tomas Berdych became the first man into the third round with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 win over Kenny de Schepper. Berdych took advantage of five of his eight break-point opportunities while maintaining a 13-0 record on his serve.

wave of withdrawals: The nine first-round retirements — eight men and one woman — tied a record for most retirements or walkovers in a single round at any Grand Slam in the Open Era. There were also nine retirements in the first round of the 2011 U.S. Open and the second round at Wimbledon in 2013. The U.S. Open in 2011 had the overall retirement record, 17.

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