Williams cruises into fourth round

Blackpool Citizen: Serena Williams celebrates after winning her third round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne. (AP) Serena Williams celebrates after winning her third round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne. (AP)

Serena Williams defeated old rival Daniela Hantuchova to ease into the fourth round of the Australian Open without having dropped a set.

The top seed took an hour and 20 minutes to see off the 31st seed 6-3 6-3 on another baking hot day at Melbourne Park.

The pair first met in 2002 in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, which Williams won, and Hantuchova had only managed one victory in eight subsequent meetings, although that did come here eight years ago.

They had not faced each other for more than four years but it quickly became horribly familiar for Hantuchova as Williams cruised into a 5-2 lead.

The Slovakian had two chances to get back on serve but Williams saved both, the second with a second-serve ace, and then went on to take the set.

The world number one was not quite at her best and Hantuchova did well to fight back from an early break down in the second set to level at 3-3, but Williams promptly forged ahead again.

Maria Sharapova had let a winning position slip away against Karin Knapp on Thursday and ended up battling away for more than three hours as temperatures soared over 40C.

Williams missed her first three match points on the Hantuchova serve but then powered away a forehand winner to set up a last-16 clash with either Ana Ivanovic or Sam Stosur.

Makarova will next meet fourth seed Li Na, who saved a match point on her way to a battling 1-6 7-6 (7/2) 6-3 victory over Lucie Safarova.

Li, beaten by Victoria Azarenka in the final last year, made 18 unforced errors and hit just two winners in the first set and looked in deep trouble in the second.

Czech Safarova served for the match at 5-3 and then held a match point at 6-5 but missed a backhand by a fraction.

The pair took a 10-minute break before the third set because of the extreme heat and initially that looked to have unsettled Li again but she was the stronger at the end, clinching victory after two hours and 37 minutes.

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