Serena Williams is back to being Serena Williams and talking about Serena Williams in the second, third, and maybe even the fourth person.
The world No. 2 won through on Thursday at the Australian Open, defeating a tough unseeded opponent in Czech Lucie Safarova 6-3, 6-4, then held court with the media regarding winning and being Serena, and remembering that she’s Serena.
“I knew that I wanted to jump out in the lead,” Williams said. “I knew that I wanted to just be Serena. That’s what I’m good at doing, is being Serena. That’s what I wanted to do…I know that being Serena on the court is in a way being calm, which is in my name, but always having that fire as well. I think, most of all, being confident. I should be confident ’cause there’s no other Serena. I mean, I’m Serena. Maybe there is another one, but she’s not in tennis…So I think sometimes I forget. I try to be so humble that I forget I have accomplished so much. I really wanted today to just have confidence when I was out there.”
She will try and be Serena again in her third-round match when she faces unseeded American Nicole Gibbs, who on Thursday defeated fellow American Irina Falconi 6-4, 6-1.
Also into the third round Thursday from the Top 10 were No. 5 Karolina Pliskova who didn’t blink against Russian Anna Blinkova 6-0, 6-2; No. 6 Dominika Cibulkova who had to work hard against Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-Wei 6-4, 7-6(8); and No. 9 Johanna Konta who maintained her ruthless form in downing Japanese rising star Naomi Osaka 6-4, 6-2.
“I should have closed the match sooner, I had two match points in the second set I finally found my rhythm,” Cibulkova said. “I had 40-15, but that’s tennis and I am really proud of how I handled myself in the tiebreak, you know even had a set point. I didn’t focus on the past, I was focusing on what I should do right now in the moment.”
Konta will next face No. 17 Caroline Wozniacki, who was too steady for Croat Donna Vekic 6-1, 6-3.
“I feel pretty good,” said Wozniacki, who elicited 32 unforced errors from Vekic. “I have been hitting it pretty good in practice. Patches of my matches have been really good. I thought I started off pretty well today. In the end, maybe a little bit too passive. But generally, I think it was steady and played pretty decent.”
The Aussie-born Brit Konta says she’s enjoying her visit Down Under.
“I actually trained on these courts when I was younger. Part of that national program,” she said. “So, for me, I guess the culture that I can relate to here is more the tennis culture more than anything, just because of my early years playing. But I guess I spent my formative years in the UK, and that’s home for me. That’s where I go home to. But I’m very lucky that I’ve got family in two places — three places, actually. There is even Hungarian in there.”
The blunt Pliskova said that it’s difficult to measure her progress in two matches thus far because her opponents have — well, sucked.
“I think the opponents were not — I don’t want to say ‘that good,’ but obviously I was better, so…,” she said. “Even the opponents were not that high level, I would say, but still, I felt pretty good out there. Third round is going to definitely more tough than the first two. Also people are talking I have a good chance to win a Grand Slam, but we are just in third round, so let’s see.”
On the upset tip were Croat Mirjana Lucic-Baroni easily handling No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3, 6-2, Greece’s Maria Sakkari outlasting No. 28 Alize Cornet 7-5, 4-6, 6-1, and Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko taking out No. 31 Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-1.
Lower-seeded players into the third round were No. 12 Timea Bacsinszky, No. 14 Elena Vesnina, No. 16 Barbora Strycova, No. 21 Caroline Garcia, No. 22-seeded Aussie Daria Gavrilova who thrilled the home crowd by outlasting former No. 1 junior Ana Konjuh 6-2, 1-6, 6-4, and No. 30 Ekaterina Makarova who advanced when veteran Sara Errani retired with injury.
“I think I stopped moving her,” Gavrilova said about losing the second set 6-1. “I felt like I was getting overpowered. Yeah, I felt like I didn’t move her as much as I did in the first set and wasn’t as aggressive. You know, I still had chances. I felt like I was still in that set, I was still playing well. I was trying to focus. I wasn’t showing too much emotion, which was good, too.”
There will be some high emotion on display Friday in Melbourne with marquee matches including the combustible Coco Vandeweghe vs. Eugenie Bouchard, (1) Angelique Kerber vs. Kristyna Pliskova, and former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic vs. (8) Svetlana Kuznetsova.
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