Another stroll for Williams, while Halep struggles

Serena Williams stormed past Canada's Eugenie Bouchard and into the Australian Open third round yesterday, as her quest for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title gathered pace.

The American won 6-2, 6-2 in 70 minutes, setting up unseeded Ukrainian teenager Dayana Yastremska as the next hurdle in her bid for another Major to equal the mark set by Australian great Margaret Court.

The 37-year-old won her 23rd Major in Melbourne two years ago while two months' pregnant.

Williams is the bookies' favourite to claim an eighth Australian title, despite being seeded 16th.

She said she was wary of Bouchard, who is on the comeback trail after a slide down the rankings to No. 79 in the world.

"It wasn't an easy match tonight, Eugenie's been to the final of Wimbledon (in 2014) and the semi-finals of other Grand Slams," she said.

"So I knew 'Serena, you've got to come out hot, you've got to come out firing, she's a really good player and I haven't had many matches since last year'."

In contrast to Williams, world No. 1 Simona Halep staggered through against American Sofia Kenin 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4 - her second three-set test in a row.

The pressure on the reigning French Open champion will only increase in her next round, when she faces seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams.

The 38-year-old sister of Serena rolled back the years to beat France's Alize Cornet 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.

"I have no idea how I won this tonight, it's so tough to explain what happened on court," Halep said after overcoming the dogged Kenin.

"It was difficult to stay in there for every ball and run so much," she said.

"I got a little bit injured in the second set but I just fought because I wanted to win."

Halep did not provide details of her injury but a herniated disc cut short her season last year. - AFP, REUTERS