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Professional

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    NEW YORK – Good as she is, even Serena Williams can find it tough to deal with swirling wind, so much so that she double-faulted three times in her first service game Thursday at the U.S.
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Serena cruises to 4th round

– Serena Williams stayed on track for a third consecutive Grand Slam title with a 6-1, 6-3 win today over Ayumi Morita in the third round of the Australian Open.

Williams, who won last year’s Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles, showed no discomfort from the right ankle injury she suffered in the first round.

She’ll play her fourth-round match against Maria Kirilenko, who beat Yanina Wickmeyer 7-6 (4), 6-3.

Williams won six games in a row to end her match with Morita, coming back from a 3-0 deficit after losing her serve with a double-fault on break point in the second game of the second set.

Williams’ potential semifinal opponent, defending champion Victoria Azarenka, struggled to hold off injured American Jamie Hampton 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

Hampton, who needed a medical timeout for a lower back problem before she served out the second set and winced in pain, frequently on the verge of tears, throughout the third, still managed to hit 41 winners to keep the top-ranked Azarenka under pressure.

Azarenka appeared frustrated at times, but overcame an early break and fended off triple break point in the seventh game of the deciding set before clinching the match in 2 hours, 9 minutes.

“She played incredible, went for every single shot. I felt it was touching every single line,” Azarenka said. “She took a medical timeout but she rips winners all over the place and I was like, ‘Can I have a back problem?’ I’m feeling great, but I’m missing every shot.”

On Friday night, Maria Sharapova celebrated with extra exuberance after her 6-1, 6-3 win over Venus Williams, her first victory over the seven-time major winner in a Grand Slam.

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic took another step closer to a third consecutive Australian title, defeating Radek Stepanek 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 in the third round.

Djokovic will play Sunday against No. 15 Stanislas Wawrinka, who knocked out the last American man in the draw with a 7-6 (6), 7-5, 6-4 win over No. 20 Sam Querrey.

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