Djokovic, Serena rush through at Melbourne Park

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 22, 2015 12:52 AM

By Greg Stutchbury

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Top seeds Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams barely moved out of second gear but still underlined their superior skills with thumping second round victories over Russian opponents at the Australian Open on Thursday.

Four-times champion Djokovic only needed to up his game after an hour of his 6-0 6-1 6-4 victory over Andrey Kuznetsov, while Serena clicked into action a little sooner following some early resistance from Vera Zvonareva.

Once the 18-times grand slam singles champion got up to speed, however, she cruised away from the Russian with a 7-5 6-0 victory in warm conditions.

"Things really clicked. I had no other option but for things to click," the American told reporters.

"I had to get my mind 'Serena, this girl has been ranked as high as number two in the world, she's been on the tour and she's a very quality player, she knows what to do. She knows how to win'.

"I had to kind of snap into that."

Djokovic had been battling illness before the tournament and suffered a slow start in his first round win over Slovenian qualifier Aljaz Bedene.

His foot was flat on the floor from the first serve on Thursday, however, as he ran through the opening two sets in 51 minutes with the rallies short and sharp and Kuznetsov restricted to just 26 points.

"Much better. I was wishing two days ago after I was done with my first round to have a performance like today," Djokovic said in a courtside interview.

"Hopefully I can continue to play like this."

Men's champion Stan Wawrinka also advanced to a third round clash with Finland's Jarkko Nieminen after a 7-6(4) 7-6(4) 6-3 victory over Romanian qualifier Marius Copil, the lowest ranked player in the second round at 194.

DARK HORSE

While the main focus for the early session was on the respective top seeds and the progress of Wawrinka, many were awaiting the late clash between twice champion Victoria Azarenka and eighth seed Caroline Wozniacki.

Azarenka's ranking plummeted last year after she was restricted to just nine appearances with foot and knee injuries and is considered the ultimate dark horse in the draw.

Zvonareva also could have been considered something of a dark horse for the world number one, with early signs of an upset when the 30-year-old Russian, a twice grand slam finalist who was ranked as high as number two in 2010, served for the first set.

Shoulder surgery in February 2013 has restricted the world number 203 to just five tournament appearances in two years, though, and her bright sparks of play quickly disintegrated once Serena flicked the switch.

Serena's victory came about 90 minutes after older sister Venus hammered American compatriot Lauren Davis 6-2 6-3, while sixth seed Agnieszka Radwanska also made short work of Sweden's Johanna Larsson in a 6-0 6-1 victory that took 44 minutes.

"It's really hot today," Radwanska said. "So I'm really happy that I play short and good and I closed that match pretty quickly."

U.S. Open finalist Kei Nishikori was forced to dig himself out of a small hole when he lost the first set to Ivan Dodig, but once he got warmed up, and the temperatures continued to rise past 32 Celsius, the Croatian wilted.

Dodig, who withdrew with injury from all three of his grand slam appearances last year, had seized the early advantage against the world number five, but the Japanese broke in the final game of the second set and the momentum shifted.

"I thought he was playing really well, especially first couple sets," Nishikori said.

"He was really aggressive, returning well ... but (by the) end of the third and fourth set I was start playing more aggressive and better tennis."

(Editing by Patrick Johnston)