Tennis

Serena rushes past Russian teen Daria

World No. 1 schools Russian teen Daria but says there's still room for improvement

World No. 1 Serena Williams showed no mercy to Daria Kasatkina in a straight-sets demolition at the Australian Open yesterday, but then offered words of encouragement to the overawed teenager.

The six-time Melbourne Park winner and defending champion easily outmuscled the young Russian 6-1, 6-1 on Rod Laver Arena in just 44 minutes, the shortest match of the tournament so far.

It sets her up with a fourth-round clash against another Russian, Margarita Gasparyan, with a quarter-final beckoning against old foe Maria Sharapova - a showdown Williams would be confident of winning.

She has beaten Sharapova in every match they have played since 2004.

"I definitely think I played better today. Everything I've been trying to work on was kind of clicking today," she said.

"I thought I played pretty well in the other matches. My first match I thought I gave a great effort. My second match I thought, under the circumstances, I thought I played well.

'Hopefully, with each match, I can just do better."

Playing on centre court against the top seed at a Grand Slam was a huge occasion for the 18-year-old Daria, who was not just making her debut at the tournament but is on her first-ever trip to Australia.

The teenager played her first WTA tournament only last April, but has so far managed to score three wins over top-50 opposition, signalling her promise.

Williams took time to console her after the match.

"She has such a bright future. She's so young and she's headed in the right direction," she said, adding that she felt it was important for older players to help nurture the younger generation.

"I think it's important. We definitely want to encourage each other.

"This is our sport. We want to see it grow. Ultimately, you want to see it be the best sport for women and continue to be the best sport and biggest sport for women.

"Hopefully, we can all encourage and just hope for the best."

Daria came into the event as the world's 69th-ranked player but was no match for the composed and massively experienced American, who is gunning to equal Steffi Graf's Open-era record of 22 Grand Slam titles.

The powerful Williams wasted little time in laying down the law, winning a break for a 2-0 lead with the Russian barely getting her racket on the ball as she was pushed around the court.

Daria managed to get on the scoreboard in holding serve for 1-3, but she had no answers to Williams' serve as she rattled through the set in just 22 minutes.

After her second-round win, Williams said she was pleased by her consistency and lack of errors, and it was a similar story yesterday.

She made few mistakes in a dominant display and broke in the first game of the second set with outgunned Daria struggling against the Williams weaponry.

Daria didn't give up and won a service game to be 1-2, but that was as good as it got as Williams cantered to the finish line.

Despite her impressive performance, Williams said she could be better.

"I never think I'm playing fantastic... I'm always very hard on myself," she said.

"I always feel like there's room for improvement."

Williams won three Grand Slam titles - the Australian and French Opens and Wimbledon - last year which took her to within one of Graf's long-time record of 22.

She claimed her first Australian Open title in 2003, beating sister Venus in the final, and reached her sixth last year when she toppled Sharapova.

- AFP.

What's gone

WOMEN'S SINGLES 3RD RD

  • Serena Williams (x1) bt Daria Kasatkina 6-1, 6-1
  • Agnieszka Radwanska (x4) bt Monica Puig 6-4, 6-0
  • Maria Sharapova (x5) bt Lauren Davis 6-1, 6-7 (5/7), 6-0
  • Carla Suarez (x10) bt Elizaveta Kulichkova 6-4, 2-0 - abandoned
  • Belinda Bencic (x12) bt Kateryna Bondarenko 4-6, 6-2, 6-4
  • Anna-Lena Friedsam bt Roberta Vinci (x13) 0-6, 6-4, 6-4
  • Daria Gavrilova bt Kristina Mladenovic (x28) 6-4, 4-6, 11-9
  • Margarita Gasparyan bt Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-4
australian openserena williamsDaria Kasatkina