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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, February 9, 2021

 
Serena Williams

Serena Williams streaked through seven straight games sweeping Serbian Nina Stojanovic 6-3, 6-0, cruising into the Australian Open third round.

Photo credit: Paul Crock/Getty

Serena Williams arrived in Melbourne aiming to complete the final leg of a major marathon.

Channeling her inner sprinter, Williams showed commanding closing kick today.

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The seven-time champion streaked through seven straight games sweeping Serbian Nina Stojanovic 6-3, 6-0, cruising into the Australian Open third round.

On the warmest day of the tournament, Williams turned up the heat on serve winning 24 of 28 first-serve points and saving all three break points she faced improving to 73-2 lifetime in Grand Slam second-round matches.

“She pushed me very hard,” Williams said afterward. “She played really well honestly throughout the whole match. So I had to really fight for all the games. It’s really great to see young players like her come out and play well because it’s exciting for women’s tennis.”

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Continuing her quest to match Margaret Court’s all-time major mark by winning her 24th Grand Slam title in Melbourne, Williams has shown several positives through two rounds.

The 39-year-old mom has been quick off the mark running down balls in the corners and retrieving drop shots, she’s whipping the wide serve with control to set up the first strike, returning down both lines with control and conserving physical and emotional energy stretching the leads.

In the early stages, Stojanovic made Williams work to hold serve. Finding her groove in the latte stages of the set, Williams served up shutouts in two of her last three games today.

The four-time Olympic gold medal champion shared her colorful catsuit with one full-length leg and one short leg was inspired by the late, great Olympic champion FloJo.

“Yeah, I was inspired by FloJo, who was a wonderful track athlete, amazing athlete when I was growing up,” Williams said after her opening-round win over Laura Siegemund. “Well, watching her fashion, just always changing, her outfits were always amazing. This year we thought of what can we do to keep elevating the Serena Williams on the court.”



Elevation came at the right time today. From behind the baseline, Williams launched a forehand down the line then slammed a swing volley winner rallying from love-30 down to hold in the third game.

Though she didn’t win a single Tour-level match in 2020, Stojanovic was undaunted facing the former No. 1 at the outset. A clever drop shot drew Williams forward and the Serbian darted a pass down the line to deny break point. Stojanovic cranked a serve winner down the T erasing a third break point.

When Stojanovic missed her first serve, Williams punished the second. Heavy drives helped her hammer through her fourth break point for 3-1.

Winning Grand Slams requires great attention to detail. Williams was able to bear down and lift her level under stress today. Facing double break point in the seventh game, Williams withstood another service test with crackling serves holding for 5-2.

Throwing down her fifth ace to open the ninth game, Williams thumped two-hander down the line for double set point. Firing a forehand drive volley Williams wrapped an eventful 44-minute opening set with her 18th winner.

Donning a black Nike visor to start the second set, Williams depth squeezed Stojanovic in a vise-grip of baseline pressure drawing an errant forehand for the opening break.



When Williams sets her feet and gets her body behind the ball her power can be jarring for opponents. Battering a backhand, the world No. 11 scored her fourth break for 3-0.

Tennis Express

Residing in a tricky bottom quarter of the draw along with Wimbledon winner Simona Halep and Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek, Williams will face talented 19-year-old Russian Anastasia Potapova for a place in the round of 16.

It's the second straight year they will square off in Melbourne following Williams' 6-0, 6-3 win.

The winner of that match could face red-hot Aryna Sabalenka in the fourth round if the seventh-seeded Sabalenka stops the inspired run of American Ann Li.

Walking off into the sun today, Williams said she's staying positive and looking foward to brighter post-pandemic days.

"There's always a tomorrow. I feel like we have been, as the world has gone through so much, you just have to stay positive more than anything," Williams said. "As hard as that may be. It's so hard sometimes. But there's always a tomorrow and we just have to keep going no matter what it looks like.

"I think it's so cool that we have an opportunity as tennis players to play here, even with the little crowd, it's just, it's getting a little better, we hope, every day and so just a day at a time."

 

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