Roger Federer stepped up his relentless march to another Australian Open title yesterday, sweeping into the third round alongside drawcards Amelie Mauresmo, Andy Roddick and Serena Williams.
The world No. 1 blasted veteran Swede Jonas Bjorkman 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in just 95 minutes as he chases his third Australian crown and 10th Grand Slam.
The defending champion moved up a gear from his opening round win over German Bjorn Phau and was never under threat against the 50th-ranked Bjorkman.
It extended his unbeaten streak to 30 matches and he is closing in on his personal best unbeaten run of 35 matches set in 2005.
"I think I was pretty much in control of the match today," said the Swiss maestro, who played in temperatures that were a cool 17oC below the previous day's scorching 40oC.
"I started well and I felt like if I got my serve going, it's going to be tough for Jonas. That's a little bit what happened," he said. "I think it was a good match from my side. I didn't give him so many chances like I did against Phau in the first round. I think it's a bit of an improvement."
He will play Russian 25th seed Mikhail Youzhny in the next round.
Sixth seed Roddick, on course to meet Federer in the semi-finals, downed Frenchman Marc Gicquel in straight sets and said his game was peaking at the right time.
"I thought I hit the ball a little bit better, played a little bit more solid today," Roddick said. "I was putting myself in better positions on the court. I still could have executed a little bit better, but I feel like I'm pretty close to playing clean tennis."
Tough for Safin
Marat Safin, who won here in 2005, will be Roddick's next hurdle after the Russian came through another tough five-setter.
Seeded 26 after an injury-hit year, Safin came from behind to overcome Israeli qualifier Dudi Sela 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-0.
Defending champion Mauresmo continued her title defense with a clinical 6-2, 6-2 victory over Russian teenager Olga Poutchkova to schedule a third round meeting with Czech Eva Birnerova.
"It's never easy when you go out there and you don't know the player you're up against," said the Frenchwoman, who is also the reigning Wimbledon champion. "She was pretty talented and she could really play some great shots so I was very serious and I'm very happy to go through."
Williams, meanwhile, fought out a 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 win over Anne Kremer of Luxembourg and admitted she was still rusty as she comes back from a four-month injury layoff.
The seven-time Grand Slam champion, who won here in 2003 and 2005, failed to dominate Kremer, a 31-year-old qualifier ranked 159 in the world.
"Progress report: Improvement, still needs to work on some things, need to stay more focused," said the 25-year-old, who is unseeded.
Third seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, a former US Open champion, has never been beyond the quarter-final here in five attempts but looked in imposing form against Australian wildcard Monique Adamczak, winning 6-2, 6-1.
The Russian, who pulled out of the Sydney International last week with respiratory problems, could be heard repeatedly coughing during her match here, but said she was feeling better.
"I think it sounds worse than I feel. Last week I was really feeling horrible, but this week I felt better every day," said the 21-year-old, who meets compatriot Maria Kirilenko next.
Also into the third round is Serbian 11th seed Jelena Jankovic, while China's Li Na, seeded 19, sailed past Elena Bovina of Russia in a first round match postponed from Tuesday after searing heat caused a backlog.
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