Clinical Serena sweeps ahead
MELBOURNE, January 13
A clinical Serena Williams swept past local hope Ashleigh Barty to get her Australian Open underway Monday and move one step closer to an 18th Grand Slam title. The American world number one, the overwhelming favourite to win a sixth Melbourne crown, wasted little energy in swatting aside the young Australian 6-2, 6-1 in under an hour to set up a second round clash with Serbia’s Vesna Dolonc.
Williams had never lost in the opening round of the Australian Open in 13 previous appearances and has only fallen once at the first hurdle in 53 Slams, highlighting the massive odds facing the 17-year-old.
“I want to do well here, I would love to have a win, but there are so many good opponents,” Williams said of the tournament.
“I think I need to just come out and enjoy myself.” Barty, the world number 155 and a wildcard, won her opening service game to a huge cheer from the crowd but Williams was just finding her stride, easily holding the next then breaking the Australian to signal her intent.
Williams, in a figure-hugging pink and black outfit, then went through the gears, smashing winners on the forehand and backhand to silence the partisan support at Rod Laver Arena and wrap up the opening set in 31 minutes.
She began the second where she left off, breaking Barty immediately and holding her booming serve, which reached 192 kilometres (119 miles) per hour, as the youngster struggled to stay in touch.
Another break put her 3-0 up as the winners kept coming and the grunts got louder.
The 32-year-old held serve for 4-0 before Barty woke up the crowd by holding serve, adding respectability to the second set scoreline, before Williams wrapped up the match in just 57 minutes.
Despite the lopsided result, she paid tribute to Barty. “I was ready because I know she is such a good player and has a bright future,” she said.
Williams is gunning to match Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova’s 18 Grand Slam titles and few are betting against her after a formidable 2013 in which she won a career-best 11 trophies.
The American also won the Brisbane International warm-up earlier this month, defeating defending Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka in the final.
She now has a 59-8 record at the Australian Open.