Serena Williams was responding to emails about her clothing line and reorganising her schedule to spend time with her one-year-old daughter shortly before beating Eugenie Bouchard 6-2 6-2 in the Australian Open second round on Thursday.
Williams, dubbed the Australian Open favourite by Bouchard shortly after the match, is vying for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title, and will play 18-year-old Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska in the third round.
The 37-year-old said that, while life was much more demanding than her earlier years on the tour, it wasn’t anything “special”.
“I’m just doing what I feel like working parents do,” said Williams, who was pregnant when she was last at the Australian Open in 2017, which she won.
“They make it work. I’m just like literally everyone else.”
Playing at a level that mocks her sixteenth seeding, the world’s highest paid female athlete started fast in her second round match, winning the first three games.
That wasn’t the only ominous sign for her Canadian opponent, a former Wimbledon finalist who has been trying to retrieve her stellar form of five years ago.
As Bouchard tried to claw her way back into the match, she watched on helplessly as a powerful Williams groundstroke hit the net tape twice, before dribbling over, giving her no time to respond.
Easily beaten in the first set, the Canadian Bouchard pressed early in the second to lead two games to one.
Williams responded in dominant fashion, and did not drop another game on her way to ending the match with a drive-volley winner.
“I always felt rushed, a bit on the back foot, she just has so much power, so it was tough,” Bouchard said.
Naomi Osaka coy on niggle after reaching third round
US Open champion Naomi Osaka called for the trainer and took a tablet during her dominant second round win over unseeded Slovenian Tamara Zidansek at the Australian Open on Thursday but declined to reveal any details of her ailment. The first player from an Asian country to win the US Open singles title, Osaka was hampered by a back injury toward the end of last season and withdrew from the Sydney International in the leadup to Melbourne Park after making the Brisbane semi-finals.
Osaka called for the trainer and took medication when leading 2-1 in the second set against Zidansek but otherwise appeared in rude health as she bashed her way to a rousing 6-2 6-4 win.
“I was able to finish and win the match, so it’s not that big of a deal,” the Japanese 21-year-old told reporters. “It’s something that I have to keep an eye on. I’m not telling you, though. You’ll never guess. You’ll never find out,” she added with a smile.
Fourth seed Osaka reached the fourth round of last year’s Australian Open and has been getting used to the attention that comes with being a Grand Slam champion after New York. She said she still felt too new to the tour to feel comfortable hugging her rivals after matches and preferred a handshake-first policy.
“The thing is, I’m used to handshakes. Every time someone comes for a hug, I’m very confused,” she said. “I’m told that I give out the worst hugs, too. It’s not necessarily the best situation for me to try to hug someone unless I really know them. And I don’t really know anybody, so.”
Osaka, who will play Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei for a place in the fourth round, gave a second serving of joy to Japanese fans, who had watched compatriot Kei Nishikori close out a five-set cliffhanger against Ivo Karlovic on the previous match at Margaret Court Arena.
Osaka ran into Nishikori, Asia’s first male Grand Slam finalist when he made the 2014 U.S. Open title-decider, when walking in the tunnel through to the court before her match.
“I told him, ‘Nice match’. He looked very tired. I was just like, ‘Oh, excuse me, I’ll get out of your way. You had a very, very long match. I had to warm up four times, so thank you for that.'”
Simona Halep digs deep against impressive Sofia Kenin to advance
Top seed Simona Halep staved off a spirited challenge from American youngster Sofia Kenin to prevail 6-3 6-7(5) 6-4 in the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday and set up a showdown with former world number one Venus Williams next. The Romanian has struggled for form and fitness since her first-round defeat at the U.S. Open last August and came into the year’s first Grand Slam short of preparation after a back injury ended her 2018 season prematurely.
She was on a five-match losing streak before the Australian Open and needed all her determination to snap that run in her opening round clash against Kaia Kanepi when she came back from a set and a break down to win 6-7(2) 6-4 6-2. Halep again had to dig deep against 20-year-old American Kenin, who is ranked 37 in the world and came to Melbourne with a first WTA title under her belt from Hobart last week.
“I think I fought, and I fought hard, and that’s why I could win tonight. It was a very tough one,” Halep told reporters. “She’s very solid. It was really tough to hit winners… I think the level was very high.”
The world number one broke her Moscow-born opponent twice in the first set but Kenin fought back in the second from 3-0 down to level the match at 1-1 in the tiebreak. Kenin then saved four break points to hold for 1-0 in the deciding set and with momentum in her stride converted her third chance in the sixth game to break Halep for a 4-2 lead. But Halep, who clutched the back of her right thigh a few times, would not give up and got the set back on serve immediately before taking the crucial break to go up 5-4.
She converted her second match point for the victory that took two hours and 31 minutes. The next round might not be any easier for Halep, who meets seven-times Grand Slam winner Williams, who beat Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 6-3 4-6 6-0 earlier on the Margaret Court Arena.
Asked to look ahead to her clash with Williams, Halep pleaded with a big smile “not tonight, please” but then said “a little, okay.
“Tough one. But for sure I’m not going to run that much. Because it’s going to finish fast, the points,” she said. “She’s a great player, champion. It’s always a big challenge for me to face the sisters. So we will see how I will play, how I’m going to be on court. But I will be confident because I played against her, I know how she plays. I have to be strong.”
The 38-year-old Williams, who like Halep is also currently without a coach, said she had done all the hard work before the tournament and will be ready to face the world number one. “She’s very consistent on the court and in her results. So throughout the year she’s playing at a really high level. That’s what keeps her ranking up,” Williams said. “She is always winning matches, tournaments.”
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