Serena Williams still has the best serve ever on the women's side
Serena Williams wrapped up her second-round Australian Open match against Spain's relatively unknown Garbine Muguruza in an hour and 15 minutes on Rod Laver Arena. In brutally hot conditions under the midday sun in Melbourne on Thursday (Wednesday night in America), Serena showed us nothing but effortless tennis.
Any Serena fans watching and worrying for signs of an ankle injury sustained earlier in the week need not worry; the only notes to be taken away from this match are encouraging ones for Williams and her sea of supporters.
With yet another convincing performance, here are some of the stand-out facets from the American's straight-sets win, and why she remains the player to beat at the 2013 Australian Open.
It was clear from the start of the match that Serena's movement was not going to be a problem. Though her right ankle, which she had rolled in somewhat dramatic fashion two days prior, had been doubly wrapped with tape, Williams did not appear to be even half a step slower.
While her game doesn't rely heavily on movement, as she is able to convincingly dictate play against 99 percent of the field, Serena must be able to put her full weight on both feet in order to swing freely for the fences.
Williams did just that in her second-round match in Melbourne, hitting 28 winners, 16 of which came in the second "bagel" 6-0 set.
Though both World No. 2 Maria Sharapova of Russia and World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus are putting on similar displays of forcefully whipping and accurate groundstrokes in their early matches, World No. 3 Serena Williams continues to possess more firepower from the baseline as well as in the forecourt and at net than either of them.
In summary, because the ankle is looking nimble, don't expect that high winners statistic to change for Serena: she'll continue to out-hit every opponent she faces.
Serena continues to serve at an incredibly efficient and effective rate. With 68 percent first serves and 10 aces in a short-lived 6-2, 6-0 victory, the energy that Williams is able to safeguard in easy and quickly passing service games is indispensable to the rest of her game (think of Roger Federer and his ability to preserve himself and his body with an accurate and dependable serve).
The Williams' serve should be particularly paramount for the rest of the tournament given the questionable right ankle, though it appears fit and match-tough. Because she is able to move swiftly through her service games without ever being in danger (she faced one break point today against Muguruza that was quickly erased), Serena is able to conserve her physical and mental efforts on her return games.
Perhaps more importantly, this steadfast service factor means that Williams is better able to concentrate on the match and less on any kind of ankle pain if she is feeling any during play.
This has been a major factor of her game throughout her entire career and continues to be so into the 2013 Australian Open. After all, Serena is still the greatest women's server of all time every time she steps up to the plate.
Serena is unfazed.
She could have entered her second-round match and been preoccupied with thoughts or concerns about pestering her ankle. She might have stumbled to remain focused on her game after accidentally hitting herself in the mouth—yes, the mouth—on her swinging follow-through.
But she didn't do that. She doesn't, and she never will. Serena Williams is one of the most mentally bulletproof players ever, on both the men's and women's tours.
From bugs on the court to extreme Australian temperatures, Williams remained entirely engaged in today's match. There were no falters and no glimpses of fading concentration as can often happen when top players begin to run away with a match.
In short, trust that Serena's focus is stronger than ever.
Simply said and simply meant, Serena's ankle should be considered a non-issue. With the form she has presented in her first two matches, any problems she might be having with side-to-side movement wouldn't even matter. And the fact that it appears that there really is no physical inconvenience should only serve as a menacing sight for the rest of her section of the draw.
Her third-round opponent will be Ayumi Morita of Japan, an unseeded player without dominion of any big weapons to hurt Serena from any position on the court. Looking further to her possible fourth-round foes, Russian Maria Kirilenko is the most likely candidate and would still be a likely breeze for Serena as she owns a 5-0 head-to-head against her.
Williams won't be tested until at least the quarterfinals, where players like the Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova loom, and even then it is hard to imagine the American wavering.
In the end, Williams still has all the factors that have seen her go 38-1 since last year's French Open, and there is no reason to believe that any of these qualities have worn or diminished.
Unless there's a freak accident in which that entire overly speculated right foot falls off, Serena Williams remains the clear favorite to win her sixth Australian Open title and 16th overall Grand Slam.