Serena stumbles, but still cruises in opener
Melbourne, Australia - Flat on her back, her sore right ankle raised and her hands covering her face, Serena Williams tried to block out thoughts that her bid for a third straight Grand Slam title might be ruined.
After a dominating run the last six months, Williams was a big favorite to win the Australian Open. Suddenly, though, there seemed a way for her to be gone in the first round.
"I almost panicked, and I thought, "I can't do that,"' she said. "I just have to really remain calm and think things through."
The stats showed this was nothing more than a stroll - a 6-0, 6-0 wipeout in 54 minutes of No. 110-ranked Edina Gallovits-Hall at Melbourne Park on Tuesday. Williams conceded only six points in the second set.
But this match took significantly longer to complete given the medical timeouts. And while the score may have been painful to her opponent, there was plenty of pain to go around.
The first set was 4-0 after 19 minutes at Hisense Arena when her tumble near the baseline diverted attention on Day Two from center court, where a day session featuring Roger Federer, Andy Murray and women's champion Victoria Azarenka was under way.
After some deep breaths, the 31-year-old Willlams pulled herself together, got to her hands and knees for a few minutes and gradually to her feet.
Her already heavily taped ankle was assessed and retaped. She went back on court and won the next four points to get herself to another changeover, and more attention from the doctor. She went back and held another service game to clinch the set, giving her time for more treatment.
"A very similar thing happened to me last year, almost on the same side, the same shot," Williams said, referring to a fall that forced her to pull out of the Brisbane International last year and contributed to her fourth-round exit at the Australian Open.
Her subsequent trip to the French Open ended in her only first-round exit at a Grand Slam tournament, more painful mentally than physically. Stunned by the defeat in Paris, she hired a new coaching consultant, amended her training regime and won Wimbledon, the London Olympics, the U.S. Open, the season-ending championship and added the 2013 Brisbane International title to her collection.
She expects to at least start her second-round match Thursday against Spain's Garbine Muguruza, who beat Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 4-6, 6-1, 14-12 - the final set lasted more than two hours.
"Oh, I'll be out there," Williams said. "I mean, unless something fatal happens to me, there's no way I'm not going to be competing. I'm alive. My heart's beating. I'll be fine."
On Wednesday, fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland won her 11th consecutive match to start the year with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania. Radwanska won tournaments in Auckland and Sydney in the lead-up to the Australian Open.
Fifth-seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany also advanced to the third round with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Lucie Hradecka and will play her next match Friday on her 25th birthday. In another early match Wednesday, Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium beat 23rd-seeded Klara Zakapalova 6-1, 6-0.
On the men's side Tuesday, No. 2 Roger Federer beat Benoit Paire of France 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 in his first competitive match of the season.
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