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Williams, Djokovic into 3rd round in Australia

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POSTED January 18, 2012 9:48 p.m.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Serena Williams was only two points from her 500th career match win when she tumbled to the court in the second round of the Australian Open.

It's OK, she thought, it's the good ankle. After sitting and watching Barbora Zahlavova Strycova's shot float out to end the penultimate rally, Williams got up and whipped a backhand winner down the line to move into the third round with a 6-0, 6-4 victory on Thursday.

It improved her career record to 500-104 in tour matches and it was her 16th consecutive match win at Melbourne Park, where she has won five of her 13 Grand Slam titles.

"It's totally fine. It was my good ankle, so I'm good," she said, playing down concern that the fall had aggravated the left ankle sprain which hampered her preparation for the season's first major. "There was no extra pain. I twisted it. But it's all taped up, so the tape really, really helped."

She'd earlier put it down to just having "wobbly ankles."

"I wasn't meant to be a ballerina or anything," she told a post-match TV interview. It seems she was meant to be a tennis pro. Her older sister, Venus, has a win-loss record of 589-147 but is missing the Australian Open to recover from illness.

"I knew I had to get there too, because I do everything she does," said Williams, "It's great, it's like the ultimate."

Not quite.

"The first thing I asked, of course, 'Is there anyone that achieved a thousand?'" There's been two: Martina Navratilova had a career record 1,442-219, and Chris Evert retired with a 1,309-146 record.

"I never will get there either, but it's really cool," Williams said. "Five hundred is a lot of matches to play, let alone to win."

Williams won the Australian Open in 2009 and 2010 but didn't get to defend her title in 2011 because she was injured.

Novak Djokovic won the men's title to kick off a stunning year, which started with a 41-match winning streak and finished with three of the four majors and the No. 1 ranking.

His 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 win over Santiago Giraldo of Colombia was his 16th in a row in major tournaments and keeps him on track to become only the fifth man in the Open era to win three consecutive Grand Slam singles tournaments.

Sixth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who lost the 2008 Australian final to Djokovic, advanced 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 over Ricardo Mello of Brazil, while No. 23 Milos Raonic of Canada and No. 27 Juan Iganacio Chela also progressed. Frenchman Michael Llodra beat No. 32 Alex Bogomolov Jr. 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 5-7, 6-4.

Maria Sharapova, one of the three former champions in the women's draw, reached the third round after just two hours on court in two matches.

The 2008 champion had a 6-0, 6-1 second-round win over U.S. qualifier Jamie Hampton in 64 minutes.

Sharapova did not play in any warmup events and spent nearly two weeks in Melbourne ahead of the season's first major while she rested an injured left ankle.

"It was more about getting my feet going ... worrying about myself," Sharapova said. "Yeah, started my preparations in the offseason a little late, took a bit of extra time in practice instead of rushing into a tournament."

She'll meet No. 30 Angelique Kerber, who beat Canada's Stephanie Dubois 7-5, 6-1.

Seventh-seeded Vera Zvonareva, a two-time semifinalist at Melbourne Park, had a 6-1, 7-6 (3) over Lucie Hradecka. No. 21 Ana Ivanovic also advanced, beating Dutch player Michaella Krajicek 6-2, 6-3.

Two seeded players were ousted, with Sara Errani beating No. 29 Nadia Petrova 6-2, 6-2 and No. 25 Kaia Kanepi's strong start to the season coming to an end in a 6-2, 7-5 loss to Ekaterina Makarova of Russia.

Defending champion Kim Clijsters is into the third round on the other half of the draw and advanced on Wednesday along with top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki, No. 3 Victoria Azarenka and former No. 1-ranked Jelena Jankovic.

Clijsters will next face longtime friend Daniela Hantuchova in the third round, and a win there could set up a fourth-round match against French Open champion Li Na, a rematch of the 2011 Australian final.

On the bottom half of the men's draw, No. 2 Rafael Nadal advanced without much trouble from his injured right knee or from German veteran Tommy Haas in a 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 win. Four-time champion Roger Federer didn't even need to pick up a racket because Andreas Beck withdrew from their second-round match.

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