Serena Williams upped her game for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam Thursday by swatting aside Eugenie Bouchard to advance to the third round of the Australian Open.
American great Williams followed up her first round 49-minute romp by spending just 70 minutes on Rod Laver Arena to dispose of the Canadian 6-2, 6-2.
“It wasn’t an easy match tonight,” said the 37-year-old.
“So I knew ‘Serena, you’ve got to come out hot, you’ve got to come out firing, she’s a really good player and I haven’t had many matches since last year’.”
Williams is bidding to match Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam crowns, and win an eighth in Australia, on her first return to Melbourne Park since lifting the trophy in 2017 while pregnant.
World No 1 Novak Djokovic won an emotional 2008 Australian Open final rematch with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
The Serbian top seed is also looking to make history by winning a seventh title in Melbourne, and he was too good again for France’s Tsonga, who he beat in the 2008 final, rolling through 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.
“You could feel the tension on court at the beginning. We felt a lot of emotion and tried to play a great game,” said Djokovic as the memories of that tense final came flooding back.
In contrast, world No 1 Simona Halep staggered through against American Sofia Kenin 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4 – her second three-set test in a row.
In another titanic battle, Canadian Milos Raonic ousted 2014 champion Stanislas Wawrinka in four tightly-contested sets that all went to tie-breaks, while eighth seed Kei Nishikori was stretched to a draining five sets against big-serving Croat, Ivo Karlovic.
Seventh seed Dominic Thiem limped out when he retired while losing 7-5, 6-4, 2-0 to young Australian wildcard Alexei Popyrin, while young gun Alexander Zverev scraped past veteran world number 36 Jeremy Chardy 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 5-7, 6-7 (6/8), 6-1
It was a relatively easy victory for US Open champion and fourth seed Naomi Osaka as she swept past Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek 6-2, 6-4.