Thursday 14 December 2017

Tennis: I don't like crickets -- Serena plea after bug attack

Ian Ransom

A rusty and agitated Serena Williams grimaced her way through an attack of swooping bugs to resume her domination at Melbourne Park with a scratchy 6-3 6-2 win over Austria's Tamira Paszek yesterday.

Williams, unable to defend her 2009 and 2010 titles last year due to a freak foot injury, found herself dive-bombed by crickets that made merry on a balmy evening at Rod Laver Arena.

"Bugs fell on my back twice," said the 13-times Grand Slam champion, bidding for her sixth title at Melbourne Park. "I hate bugs more than you can imagine. I hate bugs. Like, they kept jumping on me. I just -- yuck! So I'm going to request not to play at night anymore because I hate bugs, except for the final."

Williams, who entered Rod Laver Arena with heavy strapping on both ankles and only two matches under her belt in five months, was also irked by her game, with her baseline rockets missing their targets for much of the 79-minute match.

Muttering and cursing, Williams knuckled down enough to break Paszek once in the first set and twice in the second, and closed out the match with her serve on fire and no sign of discomfort from a twisted ankle suffered at the Brisbane International.

Having put on a brave face in the lead-up, Williams said she had torn ankle ligaments and would need to wait and see how it felt in the morning.

"Something was pretty bad. I tore a couple ligaments. But it's all right. I'm in here playing," said the 12th seed. "Physically I felt fine. I was definitely moving better than I expected. I still think I can move better, though, and just get that confidence. It would be great."

Meanwhile, men's champion Novak Djokovic made a triumphant return to the venue that kick-started his remarkable 2011 as the former joker of the courts emphatically demonstrated he was not prepared to cede his crown without a fight.

The Serbian's victory in Melbourne last year sparked a magnificent season in which he won three Grand Slam titles and compiled a 70-6 record as he finally overhauled Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer to become world No 1.

Yesterday, he produced an emphatic 6-2 6-0 6-0 victory over Italian journeyman Paolo Lorenzi in just 92 minutes.


"It took me a couple games to get into the right rhythm," said Djokovic, who entertained the fans with some flashes of brilliance including an audacious 'through the legs' shot.

Djokovic's fellow US Open champion, Australia's Sam Stosur, though, wilted in the pressure cooker environment in front of local fans holding heightened expectations as she crashed to a 7-6 6-3 loss to Romania's Sorana Cirstea.

"I really, really wanted to do well here," Stosur said of becoming the biggest casualty of the first round. "It obviously didn't happen (and) it's not through lack of trying or not wanting it."

Home fans, however, did have something to cheer about when Lleyton Hewitt rattled off six successive games and come back from a 5-1 fourth-set deficit to beat Germany's Cedrik-Marcel Stebe.

The former world No 1 will now face 15th seed Andy Roddick, who beat Dutchman Robin Haase 6-3 6-4 6-1. The American said he expected the match to go the distance, despite Hewitt now being ranked No 181.

"I don't pay much attention to it (rankings) when it comes to Lleyton," Roddick said. "He's a fighter."

Fourth seed Andy Murray lost the first set of his match to American teenager Ryan Harrison, but the the 2010 and 2011 runner-up recovered to win 4-6 6-3 6-4 6-2. Women's title contenders Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova both had lopsided victories.

Australian Open,

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