Melbourne, Australia – Serena Williams matched one of Margaret Court's records at the Australian Open on Wednesday as she advanced to the third round with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Vesna Dolonc.
Williams improved her record to 60-8 at Melbourne Park, equaling Court's 60 match wins in the Open era at the Australian championship.
Court, who won seven of her 11 Australian titles before the Open era began in 1968, has a show court named in her honor adjacent to Rod Laver Arena.
Two fans held up a sign on Wednesday saying center court was “Serena's Arena.”
She walked into the stadium wearing a fitted pink blazer, despite the heat which topped 40 Celsius (104F) during the 63-minute match.
Williams fended off the only break point she faced against the No. 104-ranked Dolonc with an ace in the sixth game of the second set.
Despite having trouble at times on her ball toss when she was looking into the sun, the 17-time major winner fired 10 aces, won 85 percent of points when she got her first serve in and hit 24
winners, sticking to the strategy for a hot day as she extended her winning streak to 24 matches.
“I just try to hit a bunch of aces and a bunch of winners - that's all you can do because it's too hot to get into long rallies,” she said.
Li Na completed back-to-back wins over the two youngest players in the draw to reach the third round.
The 2011 French Open champion, a two-time finalist at Melbourne Park, raced through the first set against 16-year-old Belinda Bencic in 22 minutes, conceding just 10 points. She had to work harder in the second before winning 6-0, 7-6 (5).
Li, from Wuhan, one of the three “Stove Cities” in central China renowned for hot temperatures, turns 32 next month. In the first round, she dropped just two games as she accounted for 16-year-old Ana Konjuh, the youngest player in the tournament. Bencic and Konjuh each won two of the four junior majors in 2013.
“It's warm, but it's OK,” Li said.
She'll next meet No. 26 Lucie Safarova, who beat Czech qualifier Lucie Hradecka 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-0.
Temperatures topped 42 Celsius (108F) on Tuesday, and there were a total of nine retirements in the first round, equaling a Grand Slam record. The forecast is for the heat wave to continue until Friday, with daily maximums above 40 C (104F).
The players are finding ways to cope, using ice vests and wet towels in the changeovers. In Wednesday's first match on Margaret Court Arena, the heat rule went into effect allowing No. 15-seeded Sabine Lisicki and Monica Niculescu a 10-minute break after the second set.
Niculescu returned to win 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 and will next play No. 22 Ekaterina Makarova, who followed up her first-round win over Venus Williams with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over American Irina Falconi.
Mona Barthel had a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Thailand's Luksika Kumkhum, who upset 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the first round.
On the men's side, No. 7 Tomas Berdych advanced with a 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 win over Kenny de Schepper of France and No. 9 Richard Gasquet beat Russian veteran Nikolay Davydenko 7-6 (3), 6-4, 6-4.
Bosnian qualifier Damir Dzumhur advanced when No. 32-seeded Ivan Dodig of Croatia retired while leading in the fourth set. — Sapa-AP