Brisbane, Australia: Serena Williams carried her relentless winning form into the New Year with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Alize Cornet at the Brisbane International on Tuesday after Maria Sharapova withdrew and two more highly ranked players made exits in the second round.
Third-ranked Williams, who finished off the 2012 season with titles at Wimbledon, the London Olympics, the US Open and the season-ending WTA Championships, needed only an hour to beat the No 44-ranked Cornet and move into the quarterfinals in the opening event of 2013.
She said she had a touch of insomnia after arriving in Australia, and was awake listening to the New Year’s Eve fireworks and celebrations in Brisbane on Monday but not able to join in.
Williams was hitting winners so fiercely that Cornet didn’t bother chasing many of them into the corners, and hit a serve at 200 kph (124 mph) late in the second set. She will next meet the winner of Wednesday’s match between fellow American Sloane Stephens and Sweden’s Sofia Arvidsson.
Sharapova withdrew earlier Tuesday with an injured right collarbone, while 2011 champion Petra Kvitova lost in straight sets soon after.
Combined with Daniela Hantuchova’s 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 win over No 5 Sara Errani and the first-round exits of No 7 Sam Stosur and No 8 Caroline Wozniacki, the season-opening event featuring eight of the top 10 ranked women had already lost five of its top eight seeds before the end of the second round.
No 2-ranked Sharapova said she didn’t want to risk aggravating a collarbone problem that flared late last month and had also forced her out of an exhibition in South Korea. She started hitting overheads and serves only on Monday, and said it was wiser to head to Melbourne to prepare for the Australian Open, starting on Jan. 14.
“I still have quite a bit of time to prepare for Australia. I’m on the right track, been training really well, so I just don’t want to jeopardize what I’ve gained in the offseason so far,” the French Open champion said. “Just have to make a smart move here.”
Sharapova’s absence gives Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko, the lucky loser in qualifying, a spot in the second round against Australia’s Jarmila Gajdosova.
Kvitova, who won the Brisbane title five months before claiming her first Grand Slam crown at Wimbledon in 2011, didn’t find any rhythm in a 6-4, 7-5 loss to Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and will head to Sydney to get some more matches to prepare for the season’s first major.
“This tournament was a really tough draw, everybody’s playing,” Kvitova said, trying to explain why so many of the highly ranked players were out in the opening rounds. “After the offseason, it’s hard to be on the court against some opponents.”
On the men’s side, local qualifier John Millman, ranked No. 199, advanced to a second-round match with Olympic and U.S. Open champion Andy Murray by beating Japan’s Tatsuma Ito 6-4, 6-1.
Seventh-seeded Jurgen Melzer of Austria downed Denis Kudla of the U.S. 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, while No. 8 Martin Klizan of Slovakia lost 6-1, 6-2 to Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan.
Spain’s Tommy Robredo advanced 6-4, 7-6 (4) over American Ryan Harrison and Alejandro Falla of Colombia set up a second-round match with No. 3-seeded Gilles Simon with a 6-1, 7-6 (8) win over Jesse Levine.