Ankle trouble causes Williams no issues

JOHN PYE
Last updated 05:00 16/01/2013

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Serena Williams tumbled to the court and needed a medical timeout in the first set for treatment on her right ankle. But once she got up, it was all over for Edina Gallovits-Hall.

Williams routed Gallovits-Hall 6-0, 6-0 in the first round of the Australian Open in Melbourne yesterday despite the scary sequence in the first part of the match.

The No 3-ranked Williams is favoured to win the season's first major, rolling into Melbourne Park with 35 wins in her previous 36 matches, including titles at Wimbledon, the London Olympics and the US Open. But the injury could be a significant setback as she seeks a third consecutive Grand Slam title.

Williams said there was pain and swelling in her ankle and X-rays were an option, but she wanted to leave any decisions about treatment for a few hours. She gets a day off before her scheduled second-round match on Thursday against Spain's Garbine Muguruza, who outlasted Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 4-6, 6-1, 14-12. The third set of their match on Court 13 lasted 2 hours and nine minutes.

"Oh, I'll be out there," she 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."

Williams said she's overcome plenty of injuries in previous trips to the Australian Open, where she has won five titles.

"I've played this tournament with so many injuries and was able to come off pretty on top," she said.

"So for me it's just another page and a great story to tell the grandkids one day."

Defending champion Victoria Azarenka also advanced, coming back from a break down in the second set to beat Monica Niculescu 6-1, 6-4 at Rod Laver Arena.

Azarenka is ranked No 1 but has lost 11 of her 12 career matches against Williams, and knows how hard it is to beat the veteran American in any condition.

"I heard she won love and love, so what kind of injury are we talking about?" she said.

Azarenka's win was sandwiched between matches on the same court involving two of the main contenders for the men's title.

No 3 Andy Murray won his first match as a Grand Slam champion, beating Robin Haase of the Netherlands in straight sets, and No 2 Roger Federer fended off Benoit Paire of France 6-2, 6-4, 6-1.

With a packed program on the center court, Williams was playing on the second of the show courts.

The 31-year-old Williams was leading 4-0 after 19 minutes when she fell awkwardly chasing a ball wide on her forehand side, putting both hands over her face.

She rolled from her back to her hands and knees, where she stayed for several minutes before she was helped to her feet.

The 15-time major winner started limping before easing into a walking stride as she made her way to her court-side chair to have her already heavily taped ankle treated and then re-taped.

"I think I was really, really close to panicking because a very similar thing happened to me last year, almost on the same side, the same shot," Williams said.

"So I almost panicked, and I thought 'I can't do that. I just have to really remain calm and think things through'."

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Williams won the first point after the medical timeout, approaching the net to hit a cross-court winner, seemingly unfazed by the ankle.

She hit two more forehand winners to go up 5-0, then called the trainer back to the court to adjust the taping on the ankle during the changeover. She had more treatment after winning the first set.

Williams winced slightly after jumping to hit an overhead in the third game of the second set and called the trainer out again to re-tape the ankle during the changeover, leading 3-0.

She dominated the second set despite the injury, allowing the Romanian player to win just six points.

Murray beat Haase 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 in the opening round and was asked what it felt like to play after his triumph at the US Open, where he became the first British man since 1936 to win a major title.

"I can try and focus on the second part of my career now," he said.

The 25-year-old Murray seemed more at ease and relaxed than he had been in previous trips to the season's first major.

"It was a good start, nice to win in straight sets," he said.

"It was the hottest day we've had for a while so the court was playing much quicker."

It's been 12 months since Murray started working with eight-time major winner Ivan Lendl, and he attributes much of the success in his breakthrough 2012 to his partnership with his new coach.

It's relaxed "in front of the cameras, yeah," Murray joked. "Behind closed doors he works me very hard.

"We've had a very good relationship so far. He's very honest, very open. He doesn't lie to you, he tells you exactly how it is and that's exactly what I needed."

Also advancing were No 6 Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion, 2008 Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No 12 Marin Cilic, No 13 Milos Raonic of Canada, who beat Jan Hajek 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 7-6 (0), No 17 Philipp Kohlschreiber, No 21 Andreas Seppi and No 25 Florian Mayer.

In a record for the Australian Open, 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm upset No 12-seeded Nadia Petrova of Russia 6-2, 6-0 to become the oldest woman to win a singles match at the tournament.

In other women's matches, former No 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki won the last six games to beat Sabine Lisicki of Germany 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 to advance along with No 14 Maria Kirilenko, No 16 Roberta Vinci, No 17 Lucie Safarova and No 29 Sloane Stephens, the American teenager who beat Simona Halep of Romania 6-1, 6-1.

Former US Open and French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova continued her comeback from a knee injury that kept her out of the US Open, ending her run of 40 consecutive majors.

The men's tour was yesterday coming to grips with the news Brad Drewett has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease - Lou Gehrig's disease - and will be replaced as ATP World Tour executive chairman and president.

The 54-year-old Australian has held the top ATP position since January 1 last year, but had previously led operations in the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific regions since 2006.

He was a top 40 singles and top 20 doubles player before he retired as a player in 1990.

- AP

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