MELBOURNE, Australia — Flat on her back, her sore right ankle raised and her hands covering her face, Serena Williams tried to block out thoughts that her bid for a third straight Grand Slam title might be ruined.
After a dominating run the last six months, Williams was a big favorite to win the Australian Open. Suddenly, though, there seemed a way for her to be gone in the first round.
“I almost panicked, and I thought, ‘I can’t do that,”’ she said. “I just have to really remain calm and think things through.”
The stats showed this was nothing more than a stroll – a 6-0, 6-0 wipeout in 54 minutes of No. 110-ranked Edina Gallovits-Hall at Melbourne Park on Tuesday. Williams conceded only six points in the second set.
She expects to at least start her second-round match Thursday against Spain’s Garbine Muguruza, who beat Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 4-6, 6-1, 14-12 – the final set lasted more than two hours.
“Oh, I’ll be out there,” Williams said. “I mean, unless something fatal happens to me, there’s no way I’m not going to be competing. I’m alive. My heart’s beating. I’ll be fine.”
If results go according to rankings, Williams will meet Azarenka in the semifinals. The top-ranked female had a 6-1, 6-4 win over Monica Niculescu.
She progressed along with former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, who beat Sabine Lisicki 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, and American teenager Sloane Stephens, who beat Simona Halep of Romania 6-1, 6-1.
In a battle of two major winners, 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova defeated 2010 French Open titlist Francesca Schiavone 6-4, 2-6, 6-2.
Murray, playing his first match at a major since winning the U.S. Open and breaking a 76-year drought for British men at Grand Slam tournaments, defeated Robin Haase of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-1, 6-3.
No. 2 Roger Federer beat Benoit Paire of France 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 in his first competitive match of the season. Other men progressing included 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro, 2008 finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic.
Top-ranked Novak Djokovic will continue his push for a third consecutive Australian title when he meets American Ryan Harrison on Wednesday night. Venus Williams plays Alize Cornet of France for a spot in the third round, where she could meet French Open champion Maria Sharapova.
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