Serena Williams negotiates tricky opponent while Radwanska crashes out
The American maintained her course for a 23rd grand slam title by beating Lucie Safarova
Serena Williams of USA in action against Lucie Safarova Czech Republic during the Women’s Singles second round match at the Australian Open. Photo: Lynn Bo/PA
Williams had needed three sets to beat Safarova in the French Open final two years ago but this time she won 6-3 6-4 against the Czech on Rod Laver Arena.
Safarova was the second tricky opponent Williams faced in Melbourne after she was paired with up-and-coming Swiss player Belinda Bencic in round one. She beat Bencic 6-4 6-3.
“It’s not ideal. But at the end of the day, when I play players like Bencic and Safarova, they force me to play better,” Williams said.
“It forces my game from the very first day to be at a high level so I think it’s actually good.
“I needed something to start really fast so I’m not going to complain about it.”
Williams will face fellow American Nicole Gibbs for a place in the last 16, with Gibbs only managing to win only three games when they last met at Stanford in 2012.
The 22-time grand slam singles champion also looks in ominous form, having delivered a typically clinical display against Safarova, which included 35 winners, 15 aces and not a single break of serve conceded.
Williams says the key at Melbourne Park has been her mindset.
“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,” Williams said.
“To me, it’s being a champion but not only by the way I play, but the things I do off the court as well.
“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 because there’s no other Serena. Maybe there is another one, but she’s not in tennis.
“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.”
Agnieszka Radwanska, who had been a potential semi-final opponent for Williams, crashed out as the number three seed was beaten 6-3 6-2 by Croatia’s 34-year-old Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.
Caroline Wozniacki had no such problems as she cruised past Croatian Donna Vekic in straight sets and will now play Britain’s Johanna Konta, who beat Naomi Osaka of Japan.
Last year’s runner-up Karolina Pliskova also went safely through, along with sixth seed Dominika Cibulkova and Wimbledon semi-finalist Elena Vesnina.