Murray, Williams advance as Open heats up

The second-seeded Serena Williams, who has an alternate year pattern of titles here since 2003, had a 6-3, 6-2 win over China's Yuan Meng in 75 minutes.

updated: January 20, 2009 18:11 IST
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Andy Murray's first win at Rod Laver Arena lasted only 45 minutes. Lucky him.

With the temperature topping 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in Melbourne on Tuesday, Serena Williams wanted her first-round match at the Australian Open to be over just as quickly.

The second-seeded Williams, who has an alternate year pattern of titles here since 2003, had a 6-3, 6-2 win over China's Yuan Meng in 75 minutes in the following match on center court.

"Ooh! It's a little hot out here," Williams said. "It was definitely extreme conditions."

Murray only needed to play 12 games to advance. Andrei Pavel, the 34-year-old Romanian ranked 1,141st but with a protected ranking of No. 100 here because of a chronic back injury, retired with a back problem when he was down 6-2, 3-1 and 15-0.

When they walked off, the temperature kept rising until a cool change following Williams' match.

In addition to the heat, the early afternoon sun was nearly blinding at one end of the court.

Williams let several service tosses drop during one game before shortening her motion, costing her some speed.

When a passing cloud brought brief relief, a fan shouted, "Close the roof!" A swirling, gusty wind added unpredictability, and a flurry of moths annoyed the players and sent staffers scurrying to sweep them off the court during changeovers.

Williams, who won the first of her nine majors in Melbourne, attributed her success here with the timing of the event.

"Maybe a new year, wanting to start out the year well," she said. "Also, it seems to not matter in what condition I come in here, I'm able to at least play a solid game."

Oracene Price, mother and coach of Serena and Venus Williams, sat in the bleachers under an oversized straw hat. She had another first-round match to watch later Tuesday, with sixth-seeded Venus opening against Germany's Angelique Kerber on the second showcourt.

Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva beat Germany's Kristina Barrois 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-1. Also advancing were No. 13 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, 2006 champion Amelie Mauresmo of France and No. 22 Zheng Jie of China.

No. 9 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland lost to Ukraine's Kateryna Bondarenko 7-6 (7), 4-6, 6-1. She was the highest of the seeded players to fall so far.

On the men's side, No. 6 Gilles Simon beat Spain's Pablo Andujar 6-4 6-1 6-1. Fellow Frenchman Richard Gasquet, seeded 24th, advanced in four sets over Diego Junqueira.

No. 17 Nicolas Almagro of Spain, No. 25 Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, and No. 31 Jurgen Melzer of Austria advanced. Melzer overpowered 19-year-old Japanese player Kei Nishikori 7-5, 6-2, 6-1.

Murray is carrying the hopes of a British public looking for its first male Grand Slam champion since 1936.

The 21-year-old Scot, who lost last year's U.S. Open final to Roger Federer, went back out to practice after the sudden finish to his first match.

"It's the first time I've ever won a match on here," he said. "You don't want to win a match like that."

Murray was installed as the favorite or joint favorite for the tournament by British bookmakers after beating Federer three times since losing the U.S. Open final _ his best run at a major to date.

"I'm aiming to go one better here and I need all the support I can get," he said, noting the number of Scottish flags unfurled around the stadium. "It's nice. Hopefully they'll keep coming throughout the tournament."

Murray defended his Qatar Open title before coming to Melbourne but said it was still difficult getting used to the Australian summer.

"Even when you sit down at the change of ends, you're expecting to sort of go and chill out a little bit in the shade and it's roasting even when you're just sitting there," he said. "That was tough. If you have a long point, you can feel your feet burning a little bit."

Rafael Nadal, who replaced Federer atop the rankings, had a night match on Tuesday against Christophe Rochus of Belgium, about the same time No. 9 James Blake is due to play Canada's Frank Dancevic.