Williams sets Australian mark with third-round win
Five-time champion Serena Williams has now won more matches at the Australian Open than any other woman, notching career win No. 61 on Friday as she advanced to the fourth round with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Daniela Hantuchova.
On another scorching day at Melbourne Park, Williams converted her fourth match point on No. 31-seeded Hantuchova's serve to finish it off in 1 hour, 20 minutes, keeping her time on court to a minimum during the heat wave. She has only dropped 12 games in three straight-set wins this week.
It was Williams' 24th consecutive win on the tour back to August, and improved her career record to 61-8 at the Australian Open.
The No. 1-ranked Williams equaled Margaret Court's Australian Open mark of 60 wins with her second-round victory, and on Friday matched Lindsay Davenport's record of 69 main-draw matches here in the Open era. That means she'll set another record just by showing up on Sunday, against the winner of the night match between 2011 U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur and former No. 1-ranked Ana Ivanovic.
The temperature hit 39 Celsius (102 Fahrenheit) during Williams' match and was expected to climb to 44 C (111 F) later Friday, with match suspensions a possibility on outer courts for the second consecutive day.
"It was a tough match ... it's definitely hot, but you have to be ready to play," she said. "And then you have to prepare yourself mentally, too."
Seven of Williams' nine victories over Hantuchova have come at Grand Slam events — Hantuchova's only win was here in the third round in 2006.
Rod Laver Arena was about three-quarters full for the match, though it was a quiet crowd — people seemed to be expending more energy fanning themselves with programs and newspapers than applauding points on the court.
There were a few shouts of encouragement when Williams broke early in the second set, but the crowd grew more vocal when Hantuchova broke back in the sixth game to make it 3-all.
No. 9 Angelique Kerber advanced earlier with a 6-3, 6-4 win over American Alison Riske, and said her main aim had been to "get off the court before it became really hot." Kerber will next play No. 28 Flavia Pennetta, who advanced 6-1, 7-5 over Mona Barthel of Germany.
In an early men's result, Florian Mayer beat No. 20 Jerzy Janowicz 7-5, 6-2, 6-2.
Matches on outer courts were suspended for four hours on Thursday afternoon when the Extreme Heat Policy was invoked for the first time in the tournament. Lightning and rain caused further delays later in the evening. Maria Sharapova advanced after playing 3 ½ hours in the blazing sun, before the roof was closed on Rod Laver Arena.
Two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka won her night match indoors. The loaded top half of the men's draw lost a contender when No. 5 Juan Martin del Petro lost a second-round match that ended at 1:20 a.m. Friday. Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Roger Federer all progressed earlier on day four.