WORLD No 1 Serena Williams last night conquered the wind and another American challenger to take her place in the third round of the US Open.
Williams struggled with the gusty breezes that swept across Arthur Ashe Stadium, committing three double faults in her opening service game against compatriot Vania King before settling in to administer a 6-1, 6-0 thrashing.
The two-time defending champion took just 56 minutes to advance, and that included numerous serving starts and stops due to trouble with her tosses.
“It’s so hard to play in the wind,” the top-seeded Williams said. “I’m very happy to get through a solid match with the conditions today. You have to be able to adjust.”
Williams, who beat 18-year-old compatriot Taylor Townsend in the opening round, will next play yet another American in Varvara Lepchenko, a 6-4 6-0 winner over Germany’s Mona Barthel.
Former world No 1 Ana Ivanovic was upset 7-5, 6-4 by 42nd-ranked Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic in the second round. Pliskova, 22, took advantage of a slew of miscues from the eighth-seeded Serb during a windy, 80-minute match in Louis Armstrong Stadium to reach the third round for the first time in a grand slam event.
Ivanovic, 26, double-faulted seven times and committed 29 unforced errors as she had trouble handling the heavy, flat groundstrokes from the Czech.
“It’s definitely my best match this year,” said Pliskova, who has yet to win on the WTA Tour but twice has been a runner-up this year.
“I didn’t have that much strategy. I just went and played my game. I want to enjoy myself and I did it.”
Ivanovic began the year’s fourth and final grand slam full of confidence after a runner-up finish in the Cincinnati tune-up event.
“It was very tough out there for me today,” said Ivanovic, who has wins over Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova this season in battling back into the world top 10.
“I really struggled to find my rhythm and made way too many unforced errors. It was just really a bad day.”
Pliskova, the 2010 Australian Open girls’ champion, has been making tour progress in singles after gaining attention for her success in doubles, partnering with twin sister Kristyna last year to become the first twins to ever win a WTA doubles title.
“My serve, that’s the main point,” said Pliskova, who had seven aces in subduing Ivanovic.
“I was serving well. But I was trying to play aggressive. I knew if I was not going to be that aggressive she was going to make more winners than I, so I was trying to stay aggressive and to go to every point.
“She did a few mistakes which I think was the deciding point.”
Pliskova will next meet 29th seed Casey Dellacqua.
Other women advancing included 11th seed Flavia Pennetta of Italy and 16th- seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus – both at the expense of American opponents.
Pennetta dismissed Shelby Rogers 6-4 6-3, while two-time Australian Open winner Azarenka roared back from a 3-love, 0-40 deficit at the start to beat Christina McHale 6-3 6-2.
Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion who once held the No 1 ranking, has been hampered by injuries, including one to her left foot that kept her out for much of the season and a knee problem that led her to pull out of the tuneup event in Cincinnati.
“I never look back at what happened. I think that’s the right attitude, because that’s what keeps me looking forward toward my goal,” Azarenka said. “I feel like I’m improving from day to day. I played much better than I played a month ago.”
Tenth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan claimed a quick entry into the third round when Pablo Andujar of Spain retired, trailing 6-4 6-1, and 22nd seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany had an even quicker result.
The German booked his spot in the third round when France’s Michael Llodra retired after dropping the first set 6-2, due to an ailing elbow.
Those retirements raised the number of withdrawals in the men’s draw to eight not yet halfway through the second round.
Big-hitting American Sam Querrey limited his time spent on court against a healthy Guillermo Garcia-Lopez with his racket, beating the 28th-seeded Spaniard 6-3 6-4 6-4.
“If I keep playing like I played today I will keep going in the right direction and hopefully get back up in the top 20,” said Querrey, who has slipped to 57th in the rankings.