Serena leads day of seed success in bottom half

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Serena Williams led a day of widespread success for seeded players in the Australian Open women's singles.

Former world number one Williams, second seed in Melbourne, overcame a tricky assignment against Belinda Bencic in straight sets, while Agnieszka Radwanska (3), Karolina Pliskova (5), Dominika Cibulkova (6) and Johanna Konta (9) all made the second round with a minimum of fuss.

Sam Stosur was the highest-profile casualty on day two of main-draw action, the Australian number one falling at the first hurdle for a second year in succession.

 

SOLID SERENA BEATS BENCIC

Williams had every right to be wary of the unseeded Bencic heading into their match, the Swiss 19-year-old had won on their last meeting at the 2015 Rogers Cup.

After a charge into the top 10 this time last year, Bencic came to Melbourne outside of the top 50 after a string of injuries, but the two-time champion on the WTA Tour showed that the ranking belies her ability.

Bencic pulled Williams back after an early break put the American 3-1 up, and the Swiss also rallied from 5-0 down in the second set to reach 5-3 before Serena put the game to bed for a 6-4 6-3 win.

"I feel like she definitely has a lot more power. Obviously she beat me in Canada the last time we played," Williams said.

"I just wasn't as aggressive as I was during those games. She started playing better. I made a few errors on some key points, but for the most part, I still was going for everything and I was able to close it out."


EASY STREET FOR SEEDS

Williams needs to make the final in Melbourne to have any hope of snatching the number-one ranking back from Angelique Kerber and she may have hoped to see some of the tougher obstacles in her half of the draw drop out.

No such luck.

Each of the top seeds that could await the 22-time major winner won in fairly comfortable fashion.

Pliskova preceded Williams on Rod Laver Arena by beating Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-2 6-0, while Cibulkova and Konta breezed past Denisa Allertova and Kirsten Flipkens respectively after tough opening sets.

Radwanska did not have it all her own way against Tsvetana Pironkova, but she overcame a sloppy second-set wobble to beat the Bulgarian 6-1 4-6 6-1.

 

SAFAROVA SAVES NINE (!) MATCH POINTS

To paraphrase the old saying, life threw its fair share of lemons at Lucie Safarova as she took on Yanina Wickmayer... and the Czech made enough lemonade to quench a stadium's thirst.

The former world number five was a quarter-finalist here 10 years ago but has not made the second week since.

Truth be told, it might be a struggle for Safarova to reach round four this time, after an energy-sapping three-set win over the Belgian, in which she saved an incredible nine match points.


The reward for such a stunning show of grit and determination...? That would be a match with Serena Williams in two days' time.


STOSUR STUMBLES AGAIN

The highest ranked home player, Stosur (18) came into Tuesday's match against Heather Watson without a win since the first round of the US Open, but holding a 2-0 record over the Brit.

Rather than extending that head-to-head run, she is now winless in nine matches after going down 6-3 3-6 6-0.

"You get a bit sick of this feeling," Stosur said. "I don't feel like it was all bad or it was a big disaster.

"I know there's obviously things I need to improve. I need to do it quickly, work out a few things. I do feel like it's still possible for me."

Daria Gavrilova beat Naomi Broady in three sets in another Australian-British duel on Tuesday.