Melbourne: Serena Williams's pursuit of a 23rd grand slam title gathered momentum on Thursday when she thrashed Czech Lucie Safarova 6-3, 6-4 to reach the third round of the Australian Open.
Clubbing 15 aces and 35 winners at a flood-lit Rod Laver Arena, Williams wrapped up the contest in a brisk 86 minutes to set up a match with compatriot Nicole Gibbs.
Williams was still in a combative mode when she headed to her news conference and upbraided a reporter for describing her performance as "scrappy".
"I think that's a very negative thing to say. Are you serious?" she snapped.
"Well, you should have been out there. That wasn't very kind. You should apologise."
Williams extended her perfect record to 10 successive wins over Safarova and shut down all six break point chances the Czech held over her.
Williams says she is a humble person who sometimes forgets all she has achieved, crediting hard work and a calm persona for her sensational career.
The American, 35, widely considered one of the best athletes in any sport, is on the cusp of beating Steffi Graf to claim an Open-era record 23rd Grand Slam title.
It has taken her 20 years to get to this point, with few players being at the top for so long.
As she works to claim a seventh Australian Open title in Melbourne, a bubbly Williams, who recently got engaged, said it was easy to forget how far she has come.
"I try to be so humble that I forget I have accomplished so much," she said, explaining that hard work was key to her success.
"I've worked all my life. I worked so many years. I work hard," she said.
"I think everyone out here works really, really hard. Even if we don't win, we always come back and we always fight for a second chance, and there's always another week.
"I think, a lot of times, you do not really realise, all us tennis players, how hard everyone works."
Williams is in her 17th Australian Open campaign and her 66th Grand Slam, trailing only sister Venus (73) in the list of majors played among active players, after first breaking into the top 100 in 1997.
After sweeping past Safarova and into the Australian Open third round, Williams said in difficult moments she tried to tell herself to "be Serena", a mantra that has served her well.
Part of that involves reminding herself she was a champion who had been playing for so long that she should know what she's doing.
"To me, it's being a champion, but not only by the way I play, but the things I do off the court as well," she said.
"I know that being Serena on the court is in a way being calm, which is in my name, but always having that fire as well.
"I think, most of all, being confident. I should be confident 'cause there's no other Serena. I mean, I'm Serena. Maybe there is another one, but she's not in tennis.
"I feel like I just have to realise I've been doing this for years. I mean, I should be able to do it really well."
As her profile has grown over the years, Williams has also become more vocal on matters she cares about, keen to be a role model and stand up for her beliefs.
She arrived at her press conference wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the word "Equality" after winning in the first round at Melbourne on Martin Luther King Day.
It is a matter she is passionate about and one where social media has been useful to get her message out.
"Ten years ago these social networks weren't available, so it was a little more different, maybe more difficult, more effort to speak out," she said.
"But now you just open up your phone and you can say something or you can post something, you can shoot a video. It can reach so many people and impact so many lives by just taking 10 seconds.
"I think it's not only enjoyable, but I think it's a good opportunity to most importantly stand up for social issues and things that I find important."
(With inputs from agencies)
Published Date: Jan 20, 2017 13:33 PM | Updated Date: Jan 20, 2017 13:33 PM