Serena Williams breezes through at windy Flushing Meadows

World number one looking good again as she despatches fellow American Vania King in US Open

Serena Williams is beginning to look awesome again. Whatever Chicago's claims to being the nation's Windy City, New York can whistle up a fair breeze but the defending champion rode the latest disturbance at Flushing Meadows well enough to destroy fellow American Vania King on day four.

A month shy of her 33rd birthday and playing on the same court on which she won the first of her five US Open titles, aged 17, she rushed past the world number 81 King in 56 minutes, winning 6-1, 6-0.

“It’s so hard playing in the wind,” Williams said, “but I’m really happy to get through a solid match in the conditions today. You have to be able to adjust.”

Having seen off Taylor Townsend in the first round, Williams next plays her third American opponent in a row, Varvara Lepchenko, who was impressive beating German Mona Barthel 6-4, 6-0, in a tick or two over an hour.

Williams cut through the breeze on serve and even though she gave up five double faults – three in one game – aces normally followed, four of them. Williams was particularly impressive on her backhand, 10 of her 25 winners coming on that side.

She has had a curiously mixed 2014 and is aware she is under pressure to retain her position atop the world rankings. She will lose top spot if she fails to reach the quarter-finals here and either Simona Halep or Petra Kvitova win the title.

Ana Ivanovic, who lost to Williams in the Cincinnati final two weekends ago and had realistic hopes of meeting her in the quarter-finals here, did not live up to her eighth seeding as Czech woman Karolina Pliskova beat her 7-5, 6-4 on Louis Armstrong, which also took a fair beating from the wind.

Raised a laugh

Ivanovic at least raised a laugh – and no comment – afterwards when asked to respond to the latest media suggestions that women play five sets in slams. It is not a thought that much occupies the remaining combatants in the draw.

Australian Casey Dellacqua, seeded 29th and also in that quarter of the draw, took nearly two hours to beat China’s Wang Qiang 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 – and will play Pliskova next time.

Earlier on the main court, Victoria Azarenka, who has faced Williams in the past two finals here but withdrew at the last minute from the Cincinnati Open two weeks ago, looked to be working herself back to full fitness and confidence with a decent win over young American Christina McHale.

In 104 minutes, she went to the net 24 times and won the point on each visit: and that takes a deal of self-belief.

However, it was a curiously disjointed kill by the Belarusian, who dropped serve at 5-1 after blowing match point and saving the break three times. She clinched it, though, 6-3, 6-2, with a routine winner on McHale’s serve.

“It was tough,” she said on court immediately afterwards. “Christina started really well. I was a little on my back foot, then I got my momentum. It kind of swirls around here but it’s the same for everybody. You’ve just got to adapt. I wish I could control the wind but I can’t.”

Although she insisted she “didn’t want to talk about frustrations”, Azarenka revealed she no longer has what is described as “crab feet”, causing her pain and restricting her movement.

“I learned a lot about my body. I love tennis so much and I couldn’t wait to get back on the court. The challenge for me was not knowing.

“I had no idea how to spread my toes. [When she fixed the problem] I went running like a crazy person, celebrating; we even opened a bottle of champagne.” – Guardian Service