Thursday’s marquee women’s match went as scripted with 7-time champion Serena Williams slamming Eugenie Bouchard 6-2, 6-2 in an Australian Open second round encounter.
Bouchard had been a former Australian semifinals, and was back on the rise, but the Canadian was no match for Serena.
“It wasn’t an easy match tonight,” said Serena. “Genie has been to the finals of Wimbledon and the semifinals of other Grand Slams, so I said, ‘You’ve got to come out hot, come out firing.’
“I haven’t had many matches since last year, but it’s okay. I got to spend time with my daughter, and that matters the most to me. I’ve always been told that they grow up so fast, so I wanted to be able to take that time and say I spent it with her. It means a lot to me.”
Serena has now won her last nine matches in Melbourne, winning while pregnant in 2017.
Serena will face 18-year-old Dayana Yastremska on Saturday. The Ukrainian upset Carla Suarez Navarro in three sets to reach her first career Slam third round.
Sister Venus had a much tougher day, needing three sets to put away the pesky Alize Cornet 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.
“Just playing a little bit more aggressively probably. Just converting a little more,” Venus said of her plan in the third.
The 38-year-old Venus will move on to meet world No. 1 Simona Halep.
The 2018 finalist was on the brink of getting bounced as American upstart Sofia Kenin led the Romanian 4-2 in the third set and was six points from the win.
The 20-year-old Kenin who had just won Hobart over the weekend, was down a set and 3-0 before coming to life and frustrating Halep with her shotmaking and defensive skills. But at crunch time down 4-2, Halep pulled it together and won the last four games to advance 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-4.
“I’ve no idea how I won tonight,” said Halep. “It’s so tough to explain what happened on court, but it was a very tough one against an amazing player. It was really difficult to stay there for every ball, to run so much. I got a little bit injured in the second set but I just fought, because I wanted to win and to come back here. Hopefully in the next round, I’ll play better and make a better match.”
US Open champion Naomi Osaka upped her Grand Slam win streak to nine and Elina Svitolina, Elina Mertens and Karolina Pliskova were also winners.
Garbine Muguruza and Johanna Konta were scheduled for the late match.
The Friday ticket features a showdown between former No. 1s and Australian Open champions with Caroline Wozniacki colliding with Maria Sharapova.
“I think her results, specifically in the past year, speak for her game, how she’s been able to raise her level,” Sharapova said of the Dane. “I think the Grand Slam was the one trophy she was looking for. With determination she got there last year. She loves playing here, loves everything about this tournament. Certainly have a tough match ahead of me.”
Sharapova leads 6-4 but the two have never played in Australia and haven’t met since 2015 Madrid on clay, won by the Russian.
2016 champion Angelique Kerber returns to celebrate her 31st birthday against Australian longshot Kimberly Birrell.
And in an intriguing affair, 20-year-old Aryna Sabalenka gets a look at the 17-year-old American phenom Amanda Anisimova.
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