Talek Harris | AFP
Published — Tuesday 15 January 2013
Last update 15 January 2013 8:13 pm
MELBOURNE: Serena Williams’ bid for a historic Grand Slam hit an injury hurdle at the Australian Open on Tuesday, while Roger Federer and Andy Murray coasted and a landmark for Chinese tennis proved short-lived.
Federer and Murray opened their accounts with superlative wins on a sun-drenched Rod Laver Arena, as they joined Novak Djokovic in the second round and stayed on course to meet in the semi-finals.
As the tennis world reeled from news that ATP chief Brad Drewett was stepping down after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease, Wu Di became the first Chinese man to play a Grand Slam match, losing in four sets.
And there was drama when Williams, gunning for the first sweep of all four major titles in the same year since 1988, was on court for only 19 minutes against Edina Gallovits-Hall before going over heavily on her right ankle.
However, after medical treatment and despite hobbling around the court, the 15-time Grand Slam-winner astonishingly won 6-0, 6-0 in just 54 minutes as she belted every winner in sight to keep her running to a minimum.
The 31-year-old said she felt pain and swelling and may need an X-ray, but pledged to soldier on in her quest for a sixth title at the year’s first Grand Slam.
“Oh, I’ll be out there. I mean, unless something fatal happens to me, there’s no way I’m not going to be competing,” she said. “I’m alive. My heart’s beating. I’ll be fine.”
She added: “Obviously there’s pain. Obviously there’s swelling.”
Any lasting injury to the hot favorite could throw the women’s draw wide open and may benefit defending champion Victoria Azarenka, who is scheduled to meet Williams in the semi-finals.
The world number one from Belarus beat Romania’s Monica Niculescu, but had to come from 3-0 down in the second set before winning 6-1, 6-4.
Caroline Wozniacki, last year’s top seed and now ranked at 10, also had to dig deep before reeling off six third-set games in a row to beat Germany’s Sabine Lisicki.
Former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova also won but Italy’s seventh seed Sara Errani, who contested last year’s French Open final, became the biggest casualty so far when she crashed out to Carla Suarez Navarro.
Elsewhere, Japanese number one Kimiko Date-Krumm, aged 42, became the oldest female to win a main draw match at the Australian Open, upsetting 12th seed Nadia Pedrova 6-2, 6-0.
In the men’s draw, Murray, in his first Grand Slam match since becoming a major-winner, showed his class in a 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 dismantling of Dutchman Robin Haase.
The Scot said he hoped the experience of September’s US Open win would help him later in the tournament.
“I think when I would see the benefits of that is if I get myself deep into a Slam this year and you’re playing against the top players. That’s when I think you’ll draw on that experience and use it in the right way,” he said.
Federer, who is drawn to face Murray in the semi-finals, also showed little mercy in his 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 win over Frenchman Benoit Paire.
It was a typically sumptuous performance from the popular Swiss, who is bidding to become the first man since Roy Emerson in the 1960s to win five Australian Open titles.
Federer paid emotional tribute to Australia’s Drewett, a former player who took over as ATP chief last year, as the sudden revelation of his serious illness prompted a wave of sympathy.
“It’s a very sad situation for all of us. I saw him yesterday and he told me the news. Obviously very emotional,” Federer said.
“He was so influential.”
Out on Court 8, China’s Wu made history just by turning up, but despite fighting back from a set down the world number 186 could not stave off defeat to Croatia’s Ivan Dodig, who won 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.
“I’m really happy, but I lost,” smiled Wu, when asked if he was pleased with how he played.