Serena Williams tumbled to the court and needed a medical timeout in the first set for treatment on her right ankle. Once she got up, it was all over for Edina Gallovits-Hall.
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Williams routed Gallovits-Hall 6-0, 6-0 in the first round of the Australian Open on Tuesday despite the scary sequence in the first part of the match.
The No. 3-ranked Williams is favored to win the season’s first major, rolling into Melbourne Park with 35 wins in her previous 36 matches, including titles at Wimbledon, the London Olympics and the U.S. Open. But the injury could be a significant setback as she seeks a third consecutive Grand Slam title.
Williams said there was pain and swelling in her ankle and X-rays were an option, but she wanted to leave any decisions about treatment for a few hours. She gets a day off before her scheduled second-round match on Thursday against Spain’s Garbine Muguruza, who outlasted Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 4-6, 6-1, 14-12. The third set of their match on Court 13 lasted 2 hours and nine minutes.
”Oh, I’ll be out there,” she said. ”I mean, unless something fatal happens to me, there’s no way I’m not going to be competing. I’m alive. My heart’s beating. I’ll be fine.”
Williams said she’s overcome plenty of injuries in previous trips to the Australian Open, where she has won five titles.
”I’ve played this tournament with so many injuries and was able to come off pretty on top,” she said. ”So for me it’s just another page and a great story to tell the grandkids one day.”
Defending champion Victoria Azarenka also advanced, coming back from a break down in the second set to beat Monica Niculescu 6-1, 6-4 at Rod Laver Arena.
Azarenka is ranked No. 1 but has lost 11 of her 12 career matches against Williams, and knows how hard it is to beat the veteran American in any condition.
”I heard she won love and love, so what kind of injury are we talking about?” she said.
Azarenka’s win was sandwiched between matches on the same court involving two of the main contenders for the men’s title. No. 3 Andy Murray won his first match as a Grand Slam champion, beating Robin Haase of the Netherlands in straight sets, and No. 2 Roger Federer fended off Benoit Paire of France 6-2, 6-4, 6-1.
With a packed program on the center court, Williams was playing on the second of the show courts.
The 31-year-old Williams was leading 4-0 after 19 minutes when she fell awkwardly chasing a ball wide on her forehand side, putting both hands over her face.
She rolled from her back to her hands and knees, where she stayed for several minutes before she was helped to her feet. The 15-time major winner started limping before easing into a walking stride as she made her way to her court-side chair to have her already heavily taped ankle treated and then re-taped.
”I think I was really, really close to panicking because a very similar thing happened to me last year, almost on the same side, the same shot,” Williams said. ”So I almost panicked, and I thought, I can’t do that. I just have to really remain calm and think things through.”
Williams won the first point after the medical timeout, approaching the net to hit a cross-court winner, seemingly unfazed by the ankle. She hit two more forehand winners to go up 5-0, then called the trainer back to the court to adjust the taping on the ankle during the changeover. She had more treatment after winning the first set.
Williams winced slightly after jumping to hit an overhead in the third game of the second set and called the trainer out again to re-tape the ankle during the changeover, leading 3-0.
She dominated the second set despite the injury, allowing the Romanian player to win just six points.