MELBOURNE – Serena Williams said she played better when she was not thinking quite as much after reaching the third round of the Australian Open for the 19th time with a 6-3 6-0 victory over Nina Stojanovic on Wednesday.
The American, again sporting her distinctive one-legged leotard, needed to find her best game at times in the first set against a spirited Serbian 15 years her junior who was playing in her fourth Grand Slam.
Williams ramped up her serve to see off the danger before putting the pressure back on her opponent with some booming service returns, running out a comfortable winner on a sun-drenched Rod Laver Arena.
“I wasn't thinking so much in the second set,” the 39-year-old said on court before expanding on the theme in her news conference.
“I think sometimes … Even with my serve, I over-think it. When I don't think about it and I'm just like, whatever, it goes in. But that's clearly not the way to do it.” Next up for Williams in her quest to land her 24th Grand Slam singles title and match Margaret Court's long-standing record is a third-round date with Anastasia Potapova. The seven-times Australian Open champion said she was getting better at finding the all-important balance between thought and instinct when she played.
“I just think when I'm not thinking it's more or less like I'm just totally relaxed,” she added.
“But … sometimes that's a good time to slack off and to lose focus. So it's really about finding that key balance there for me.”
Williams, as usual in her news conferences, faced questions on a wide range of subjects and revealed, for example, that the living person she would most like to meet was Iron Man actor Robert Downey Jr.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 10, 2021
One question required her to engage her mind and sum up what message it sent to the world to be playing a Grand Slam in front of fans in the midst of a global health crisis.
“There's always a tomorrow,” she answered. “The world has gone through so much, you just have to stay positive more than anything, as hard as that may be.
“But there's always a tomorrow and we just have to keep going no matter what it looks like.” (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford & Shri Navaratnam)