British doubles pair Johanna Konta and Heather Watson set up a Fed Cup selection showdown as together they eased into the second round of the Australian Open.
The duo beat 16th seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Alicja Rosolska in 6-1, 7-6 (9/7) at Melbourne Park and they will now face Scotland’s Jocelyn Rae and Anna Smith in an all-British clash.
Rae and Smith beat Chinese pair Chen Liang and Shuai Peng 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7/2).
Konta and Watson are likely to be handed the two singles spots next month for Britain’s Europe/Africa Zone Group I matches against Georgia and South Africa but the doubles team is less clear-cut.
Doubles specialists Rae and Smith, ranked 80th in the world, have played together consistently for two and a half years and are also in Judy Murray’s Fed Cup squad.
Konta and Watson made their case on Court 5, with an impressive victory over Canada’s Dabrowski and Poland’s Rosolska.
The Britons raced out of the blocks, breaking Dabrowski’s serve in the very first game before sealing the opening set in just 30 minutes when the Canadian dumped a volley into the net. Konta and Watson then stormed into a 5-1 lead in the second and despite shipping four consecutive games, they held their nerve to secure victory in the tie-break.
Rae and Smith’s progression was less comfortable as they had to come from a set down, winning a final set tie-break to go through.
In the singles at Melbourne Park, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova both shook off recent injury problems to sail into the Australian Open third round with straight-set victories. Williams had pull out of the Hopman Cup with a knee injury a fortnight ago and the problem looked to be lingering when she was pictured taking treatment in practice last week.
The American, however, showed few signs of weakness as she dispatched Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei 6-1, 6-2 in Rod Laver Arena, hitting 26 winners and wrapping up victory in just one hour.
Russia’s Daria Kasatkina now waits in the third round and Williams said she feels fit and raring to go. “No it [her knee] hasn’t been bothering me in a long time. So it’s been okay. It’s totally fine,” Williams said. “I don’t think I made that many errors today. And I moved much better today I think, so slowly but surely feeling a little bit better.”
Sharapova, seeded fifth in Melbourne, is due to meet Williams as early as the quarter-finals and the Russian was ruthless in beating Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus 6-2, 6-1. She will meet American Lauren Davis in round three.