While you were sleeping….the favourites advanced at the Australian Open


Serena Williams was given scare during her second round match at the Australian Open when the five times champion fell during the closing stages of her match with Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.

With her preparations forAustraliahaving been hampered by a left ankle sprain and when she tumbled in the final game of this match there was a moment of hesitation until the American realised that her ankle was unhurt:

“It’s totally fine. It was my good ankle,” said the 16 times Grand Slam champion. “There was no extra pain. I twisted it [her left ankle] but it’s all taped up so the tape really helped.”

Williams ran out a comfortable 6-0, 6-4 winner and hit a trademark backhand winner to clinch her place in the next round. The victory marked the 500th of her illustrious career and afterwards it was clear how much matching the achievement of her older sister, Venus, meant to Williams:

“I knew that I had to get there too, I do everything she [Venus] does!” said Serena.

In the opening set Williams dominated proceedings and clinched it in just 22 minutes but the second set saw Strycova come into the game and start hitting more winners as errors crept into Williams’ game. Even so the result was never in doubt as the five time champion continued a run of 16 consecutiveMelbournevictories having missed last year’s tournament through injury. With a third round match against Greta Arn upcoming there is little chance of the run ending anytime soon.

Elsewhere in the ladies draw Petra Kvitova, the favourite, was taken to three sets by Carla Suarez Navarro. The Czech star looked nervous on court as she battled back from a break down in the final set to down the Spaniard.

Speaking afterwards Kvitova said:

“In the beginning it was OK but I made many, many, many mistakes,” Kvitova said when asked about her 48 unforced errors. “It’s part of my game but it’s too many. It was very tough to get back in the third set.”

Maria Sharapova, the 2008 champion, had no such issues as she swept aside the challenge of American qualier Jamie Hampton. The Russian needed just over an hour to win the opening match of the day in the Rod Laver Arena 6-0, 6-1.

Having also been forced to rest with an ankle injury and not being able to play any warm up tournaments the Siberian spent most of the last two weeks practicing inMelbourne:

“It was about getting my feet going and worrying about myself,” said Sharapova. “I started my preparations in the offseason a little and I took a bit of extra time in practice instead of rushing into a tournament.”

Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 French Open champion, took another comfortable victory and while it is still too early to say the Serbian is back to her best this was clearly another positive step for her. Whereas in the past Ivanovic has admitted to thinking too much on court her 6-2, 6-3 victory against Michaella Krajicek was marked by a simplicity in her approach and tactics.

This allowed the former world number one to play to her strengths, her superb forehand, and limit the mistakes that have blighted her game since winning inParis. The hiring of Nigel Sears as her coach has clearly had a calming influence on Ivanovic with the Serbian coming that:

“I feel really comfortable in the environment I have now,” said Ivanovic. “I think that’s been the biggest change. I’m [now] more persistent and confident.”

The reward for Ivanovic will be a third round match with Vania King. The unseeded American needed three sets to defeat the 15th seed, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and move into the third round for the first time in her career.

Last year Novak Djokovic used a sensational performance inMelbourneas a springboard to a year of dominance on the men’s tour and the Serbian world number one raced through his second round match with Santiago Giraldo to win 6-3, 6-2, 6-1.

Even though the result was commanding it was clear that Djokovic still sees plenty of room for improvement. Having missed an opportunity to clinch the second set 6-1 the Serbian threw his racquet to the ground. Speaking afterwards he said:

“A win is a win, however it comes to you,” commented the world number one. “I try not to underestimate any opponent, this is a Grand Slam and everyone has a lot of motivation to perform their best. Stantiago came out early hitting the ball quite flat but I knew that sooner or later he#s going to drop the rhythm. I just had to hang in there. I’ve done a good job.”

In the third round the top seed will play Nicolas Mahut. The Frenchman always has the potential to spring a surprise given his talent but with the form that Djokovic is in it is clear that Mahut, the world number 81 will need to play the match of his life.

Milos Raonic, the world number 25, shot to fame at last year’s Australian Open and the young Canadian moved through the third round round with a confident four set victory over Philipp Petzchner. Raomic will face the winner of the evening match between Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick for the right to, presumably, face Djokovic in the fourth round.

Elsewhere Janko Tipsarevic and Richard Gasquet both progressed to a third round matchup that should provide excitement. Gasquet, the 17th seed, was leading comfortably in the third set when his opponent, Andrey Golubev, retired through injury.

With Andy Murray in fine form, and leading his evening matcfh against Edouard Roger-Vasselin the Scot is likely to face Michael Llodra in the third round following the Frenchman’s five set victory against Alex Bogomolov. This has been a strong tournament for the French with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga booking his third round place with a 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Ricardo Mello. The sixth seed, and championship dark horse, will face the unseeded Frederico Gil in the next round.

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