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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, January 21, 2017

 
Serena Williams

Serena Williams needed just 63 minutes to send Nicole Gibbs packing and power into the Australian Open fourth round for the 14th time.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve

Spinning in exhilaration, Serena Williams returned to Australia dancing to Billy Idol in a Berlei commercial.

Springing in anticipation of any short ball she saw, Williams high-stepped past Nicole Gibbs, 6-1, 6-3, into the Australian Open fourth round for the 14th time in her career.

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Nineteen years after making her debut on Rod Laver Arena as a teenager, a 35-year-old Williams was quick off the mark and commanding on serve.

The six-time Australian Open champion won 19 of 23 points played on her first serve and converted five of eight break points overwhelming the 92nd-ranked counterpuncher.

When this Australian Open draw came out, Williams had one of the toughest first-round tests in former Top 10 player Belinda Bencic.

In retrospect, that opening obstacle has been a springboard for a proactive second seed.

The 2016 runner-up has not surrendered a set in sweeps of Bencic, 2015 French Open finalist Lucie Safarova and Gibbs.

Controlling the center of the court, Williams dictated play from the first ball against the two time NCAA champion from Stanford. Gibbs covered the court quickly and competed with vigor but lacked a heavy shot to slow Williams.


 

Serving up a #Serena special. The [2] moves onto the second week after a 6-1 6-3 win over #Gibbs. #AusOpen 🎾✌️

A photo posted by Australian Open (@australianopen) on



Dragging Gibbs around the court with sharp angles, Williams broke for a 2-1 second-set lead.

Williams’ only real mis-step came when she failed to serve out the match spitting up a pair of double faults to donate the break in the eight game.

Throughout this opening week, Williams has whipped her forehand return from the deuce side with both depth and angle. She hammered away scoring her fifth service break to seal a 63-minute victory.

Continuing her quest for an Open Era-record 23rd Grand Slam championship, Williams will take on Czech veteran Barbora Strycova for a quarterfinal spot. The 16th-seeded Strycova stopped Caroline Garcia, 6-2, 7-5, and will aim for her first win over Williams.

“She's human, and she is beatable,” Strycova said of Williams. “I will try my best. And I will have to work hard and play my best tennis to beat Serena, because she is amazing player. She knows how to play these matches.”

 

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