Serena reaches milestone in Melbourne
The spotlight belonged to Serena Williams, who earned a milestone win in the second round of the Australian Open.
Williams defeated Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-0, 6-4 for her 500th win as a professional. Afterwards there was no sign of Serena not being in love with the game.
"It's great," Williams exclaimed. "It's like the ultimate. It's really, really cool. The first thing I asked, of course, is there anyone that achieved a thousand? I guess not. I will never get there, either. But 500 is a lot of matches to play, let alone win, so it's pretty cool."
So the focus seems to be back on tennis after all the distractions and, for the moment, at least Serena is talking positively about her future in the game.
"My target is just to keep going," said Williams, who is seeded 12th. "I never even thought about 500 until I got to Australia and realized after Brisbane that I was at 498. So I was, like, Oh I definitely want to get 500 and I knew I would sooner or later. Now I don't know what the next milestone is."
Setting one might help Serena keep her enthusiasm for the game high because it has been flagging just a bit recently. But being fit again is a major plus and she insisted there was no additional problem with her ankle after she took a tumble at the net on the penultimate point of the match.
"There was no extra pain. It was fine," Williams said. "I twisted it. But it's all taped up, so the tape really helped."
Before Andy Roddick injured his hamstring in his night match against Lleyton Hewitt, there was much buzz that Serena and Roddick had finally entered the Mixed Doubles tournament together — something they have been threatening to do for some time. It looked to be a lighthearted affair even though they drew a tough team in the opening round in top-seeded Mike Bryan and Kveta Peschke.
"But we're always up for a challenge," she said after admitting that they needed to sort out a few details. "Yesterday, I texted Andy and said, 'What side do you want to play?' I was like, oh yea, we forgot to discuss that. I always play the forehand side and he said he didn't care what side he plays, so it's good."
There was more laughter when she added, "I was thinking I should let him serve first — you know let him feel like macho man and let him start first."
But now, it appears as though they're pairing will be put on hold once again.
No. 2 seed Petra Kvitova had had less time for laughs, trailing 2-0 in the third set to Carla Suarez Navarro before winning 6-2, 2-6, 6-4. The 5-foot-4 Spaniard Suarez Navarro shows little fear against her taller opponents, as she proved by beating Venus Williams here in 2009.
"She played very well in the second set," admitted Kvitova, last season's Wimbledon champion. "It was very tough for me to get back in the third from 0-2. I don't know what she will play. It will be winners or some slice? Or go to the net? So I was a little bit confused on the court."
Kvitova, who eventually brought her extra power into play with some grinding back-court rallies, was relieved to win, but happy, too. "It was a very important match to have. It was good that I got through."
In men's play, Ryan Sweeting took a step up by leading the No. 5 seed David Ferrer by two sets to one out on Court 2 before eventually losing 6-7, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. Sweeting clearly understood that the only way to get through the Spanish wall is to attack the net and he did so with gusto and no little skill. For periods, the 72nd-ranked American from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., dominated the match but keeping up that kind of pressure over five sets is a big task.
"But he played well," TV analyst Justin Gimelstob said. "I am always impressed by anyone who can take it to Ferrer. That little guy must make more out of his game than anyone on the tour. He's just so difficult to beat."
The big Canadian Milos Raonic is proving very difficult to beat, too. The absolute antithesis of Ferrer, Raonic stands 6-foot-5 and, apart from a huge serve, cracks a mighty forehand whenever he gets the opportunity. The sheer weight of his game proved too much for the talented German, Philipp Petzschner, who went down after a good battle 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5.