Williams Keeps Perfect Record, Djokovic Also Wins in Melbourne

Serena Williams
Serena Williams gestures while playing Tamira Paszek of Austria in their first round women's singles match on day two of the 2012 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on Jan.18, 2012. Photographer: Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images

Serena Williams kept her perfect record in Grand Slam opening matches alive as she joined defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic in the next round of the Australian Open.

Williams, who has won five of her 13 major titles in Melbourne, defeated Austria’s Tamira Paszek, 6-3, 6-2 in a match that ended at shortly before 1 a.m. local time at Rod Laver Arena. Williams’ worst defeat in a major dates back the 1998 Australian Open, when she lost in the second round in what was her first Grand Slam event.

“I haven’t been here for over a year, and I was a little nervous today,” Williams, who produced 12 aces, said in a televised court-side interview.

Earlier in the day, top-seeded Novak Djokovic eased into his title defense, and Wimbledon women’s champion Petra Kvitova advanced in straight sets at Melbourne Park. No. 4 seed Andy Murray needed four sets to beat Ryan Harrison of the U.S.

Sixth-seeded Samantha Stosur, who became the first Australian woman in 30 years to win a Grand Slam singles title last September, was upset 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 by 59th-ranked Sorana Cirstea of Romania.

“Probably the whole country hates me right now,” Cirstea, 21, said in a televised interview.

Williams, 30, had pulled out of the Brisbane International tournament, a tune-up for the year’s opening major, with an ankle injury almost two weeks ago. That was her first event since losing to Stosur in the finals of the U.S. Open last year.

Williams, seeded 12th, missed last year’s Australian Open as she recovered from two operations on her foot. After receiving treatment for blood clots in her lungs in February, she didn’t return to the women’s tour until the grass-court season in June.

17-Game Run

Djokovic, who earned 10 titles last year including three of the four majors, earlier beat part-time medical student Paolo Lorenzi of Italy 6-2, 6-0, 6-0 on Rod Laver Arena, winning 17 straight games after giving up an early break.

The Serb is trying to become the fifth man after Rod Laver, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to win three straight Grand Slam championships since tennis’s Open era began in 1968.

“Mentally, I’ve gained a lot of experience playing at the top level in the last couple of years,” Djokovic, a two-time champion at Melbourne Park, told reporters. “It helped me a lot to understand the game better, to understand what I need to do in order to win major events.”

Maria Sharapova, the 2008 champion, led four seeded Russian women into the second round with a 6-0, 6-1 beating of Argentina’s Gisela Dulko in less than an hour. No. 15 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and 27th-seeded Maria Kirilenko also advanced in straight sets, while No. 29 Nadia Petrova won in three sets.

It was Sharapova’s first match on the women’s circuit since October. She had pulled out of a lead-up event in Brisbane because of a left-ankle injury sustained in September.

‘The Big Ones’

“I’d rather come in feeling good physically than feeling like I played a lot of matches,” Sharapova told reporters. “It’s more important to me than anything. I just want to be as ready as I can for the big ones.”

No. 2-seeded Czech Kvitova, who along with Sharapova was one of six women who entered the two-week event with a chance of taking the WTA’s No. 1 ranking, dropped the first two games before winning 12 straight to wrap up the victory in 61 minutes.

Marion Bartoli, the No. 9 seed from France, No. 14 Sabine Lisicki of Germany and 21st-seeded Ana Ivanovic of Serbia also won.

As temperatures at Melbourne Park earlier neared 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit), Britain’s Murray needed 3 hours, 12 minutes to defeat unseeded Harrison in Murray’s first Grand Slam appearance since hiring eight-time major champion Ivan Lendl as his coach. The match on Hisense Arena, Melbourne Park’s second-biggest showcourt, featured one rally that lasted 41 shots.

Lendl’s Understanding

“He understands how you might be feeling at the start of a Grand Slam, what it’s like to play against someone that you haven’t played against, what it’s like playing in different conditions, how you feel in really warm conditions,” Murray, who tuned up by winning the Brisbane International, said of Lendl after his 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory.

No. 15 seed Andy Roddick of the U.S., whose four semifinal appearances in Melbourne without making the title match are an Open-era record, followed Murray on Hisense Arena with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 win over Robin Haase of the Netherlands. He’ll next play Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt, who beat Germany’s Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. Hewitt, a former world No. 1, needed close to four hours in his record 16th straight Australian Open appearance.

Fifth-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer, who is in line to face Djokovic in the quarterfinals, was a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 winner against Rui Machado of Portugal.

No. 9 Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia advanced along with seeded Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon, Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet.

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