Second seed Serena Williams eased into the fourth round of the Australian Open today while her sister’s nemesis Carla Suarez Navarro’s dream run continues in her first appearance in the Melbourne grand slam.
Williams produced a mixed performance in defeating Shuai Peng, of China, 6-1 6-4 and admitted afterwards she was still “feeling a little rusty”.
Williams took the first set in comfortable fashion, breaking Peng early to take a 2-1 lead.
A love game followed and a thumping backhand return and cross-court forehand winner set up another break for the American before she repeated the dose in the seventh game to take the set as Peng hit a return into the net.
Peng, ranked 41 in the world, found some inspiration though and broke the Williams serve in the first game of the second set.
But she promptly squandered the advantage by failing to hold her own serve. Unforced errors from Williams allowed Peng to gain the upper hand again and the 23-year-old Chinese then held to take a 3-1 lead.
Williams responded however, and levelled at 3-3 when Peng sent a forehand long. She then held her serve following a lengthy deuce as Peng battled gamely to stay in the set.
Williams wrapped up victory on her opponent’s serve, a couple of errors giving the 27-year-old three match points and she converted the first one with an easy smash.
“It was definitely a lot better than my second round,” was Williams’ appraisal of her performance.
“But, you know, I’m still trying to work on some things and hoping they’ll come together.
“I’m feeling a little rusty, for whatever reason. I’m hoping my next round I’ll be a little better.”
Williams will play Victoria Azarenka in the next round after the 13th seed staved off the challenge of former champion Amelie Mauresmo to win 6-4 6-2.
The Frenchwoman pushed Azarenka all the way but couldn’t make her efforts count in the crucial moments.
“I guess today it was really the key points and the key moments that I didn’t play good enough and that’s a little bit disappointing,” admitted the 20th seed.
Suarez Navarro, who ousted Venus Williams in three sets in the second round, continued her march through the tournament defeating countrywoman Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-1 6-4.
The world number 46 won the first set in just 27 minutes as she produced only two unforced errors and broke Martinez Sanchez every opportunity she had.
Martinez Sanchez put up a greater fight in the second set but was unable to make the most of her break point opportunities and Suarez Navarro closed out the match in less than 90 minutes.
She will play another Spaniard in the fourth round after Anabel Medina Garrigues, the 21st seed, upset 12th seed Flavia Pennetta, of Italy, 6-4 6-1.
The 26-year-old Medina Garrigues took one hour 13 minutes to subdue Pennetta.
She got her first breakthrough in the third game of the opening set and took control from there hitting 12 winners to Pennetta’s eight, sending down her fourth ace to secure the opening set.
The Spaniard dominated the second set as a flat Pennetta was broken three times and produced 14 unforced errors, 11 more than Medina Garrigues, to just three winners.
Jie Zheng reached the fourth round in Melbourne for the first time with a 6-2 6-2 victory against Kateryna Bondarenko.
It wasn’t a good day for the Bondarenko family as Kateryna’s sister Alona, the 31st seed, also exited, going down 7-6 (9-7) 6-4 to number eight seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, of Russia, who will now play Zheng.
Dominika Cibulkova, the number 18 seed, defeated Virginie Rezzano 7-5 7-5 to set up a fourth-round clash with either fourth seed Elena Dementieva or Australian Sam Stosur, who play in the first night game in Rod Laver Arena.