MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Serena Williams sent a warning to the rest of the field that she was still working towards her A-game as she charged into the Australian Open fourth round with a 6-1 6-1 demolition of Russian teenager Daria Kasatkina on Friday.
Playing a record 80th main draw match at Melbourne Park against an 18-year-old on her first trip Down Under, the American champion was merciless under the lights of Rod Laver Arena, blasting 24 winners and winning all 10 points coming into the net.
“I definitely think I played better today,” Williams told reporters of her 44-minute victory. “Everything I’ve been trying to work on was kind of clicking.
“I thought I played pretty well in the other matches. My first match I thought I gave a great effort,” she added of her first round victory over Italy’s Camila Giorgi.
“My second match (against Hseih Su-Wei) I thought, under the circumstances, I thought I played well.
“Hopefully with each match I can just do better.”
Kasatkina raised rambunctious cheers from sympathetic fans in the terraces when she prised a game in each set but Williams finished full of running, closing out the match when her frazzled opponent pushed a forehand wide.
Williams had a lengthy chat with the Russian after the match, though refused to go into specifics afterwards, merely outlining her admiration for the teenager.
“I think she’s a good player and I thought she had a really good game (but) it was kind of between us,” Williams said.
Williams, bidding for seventh title at Melbourne Park and a 22nd grand slam trophy, faces another unseeded Russian in Margarita Gasparyan in the next round.
“She has a great forehand up the line. She has a good serve. She mixes up the ball well,” Williams said recalling her victory over the Russian at Wimbledon last year.
“I think she qualified at Wimbledon so she’s obviously made leaps and bounds since then, gained a lot of confidence.
“She’s here to play well and win.
“So am I.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom and Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty and Pritha Sarkar