Serena Williams Reaches 4th Round of Steamy Australian Open

Five-time champion Serena Williams advanced to the fourth round of the Australian Open tennis tournament with ease as temperatures topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) for the fourth consecutive day. China’s Li Na also won.

France’s Richard Gasquet became the second top-10 men’s player to exit, following No. 5 Juan Martin Del Potro’s defeat yesterday. Gasquet, seeded ninth, was beaten in four sets by No. 17 Tommy Robredo of Spain.

Williams, the top seed, won 6-3, 6-3 today against Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova, the 31st seed. The American captured the title at the season’s first Grand Slam tournament in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010.

“I just look forward to some cooler weather,” Williams, who hasn’t lost a set in her three matches, said in a news conference.

The victory was Williams’s 61st at the Australian Open, breaking the record she shared with Margaret Court for the most wins in the tournament during the professional era that began in

1968. Williams is now 61-8 at the tournament.

Williams, 32, will tie with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on 18 Grand Slams singles titles if she wins in Melbourne.

“In life, 32 is young, in sports it’s old,” she told reporters. “But for whatever reason, I feel like I just never was really able to reach my full potential, and I feel like recently I just have been able to do a little better.”

Five Centimeters

Li, a year younger than Williams, had a tougher time before coming back in 107-degree heat to defeat Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic in three sets.

“Today is the last warm day, so we are happy,” Li said in a news conference. At least I’m still in the tournament so I can enjoy the cool day.”

A two-time finalist in Melbourne and the fourth seed this year, Li faced a match point when serving at 5-6 in the second set against Safarova. The 26th seed squandered the opportunity, hitting a backhand just long, enabling Li to take command. She completed her 1-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 victory in two hours 37 minutes.

“I think the five centimeters save my tournament,” Li added. “If she’d hit it in, I think, my whole team would have been on the way to the airport.”

Li will play Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova in the fourth round after the 22nd seed defeated Monica Niculescu of Romania in straight sets. Williams’s next opponent is Serb Ana Ivanovic, the 14th seed, who ended Australian hope Sam Stosur’s chances with a 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 win.

‘Tough Matches’

“We had really tough matches in the past,” Ivanovic, a former world No. 1, said of her forthcoming clash with Williams. “I look forward to the challenge.”

The exit of 17th seed Stosur means Australia’s hopes now rest with the unseeded Casey Dellacqua. The 120th ranked player beat China’s Zheng Jie in straight sets and is the only home player left in either of the singles draws. She’ll play Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard for a place in the quarterfinals.

Bouchard, 19, became the first Canadian to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open since Maureen Drake in 1999. The 30th seed beat American Lauren Davis 6-2, 6-2.

No. 9 Angelique Kerber of Germany also made the round of 16, with a 6-3, 6-4 win against unseeded American Alison Riske.

Men’s third seed David Ferrer of Spain moved into the fourth round with a 6-2, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 victory against No. 29 Jeremy Chardy of France. Next he’ll play Florian Mayer, the unseeded German, who ousted No. 20 Jerzy Janowicz of Poland in straight sets.

Berdych Advances

No. 7 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic also advanced without losing a set. His next opponent is South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, seeded 19, who fought back from two sets down to defeat France’s Edouard Roger-Vasselin 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5 in just under four hours.

Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka, seeded eight, progressed without hitting a ball after his opponent, Canada’s Vasek Pospisil, failed to recover from a back injury that forced him to pull out of a doubles match yesterday.

The evening matches were interrupted briefly by rain. Forecasters say temperatures tomorrow will only reach the low 70s in Melbourne, with a chance of more rain.

No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia is playing tonight against Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan. Djokovic is seeking a fourth straight Australian Open title.

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