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Serena one step closer to first Slam of season

SERENA-USA-OPENNEW YORK, August 29 – Five-time champion Serena Williams swept into the third round of the US Open on Thursday, but she’s taking nothing for granted as she bids for a first Grand Slam of the season.

Seemingly unperturbed by the wind swirling in Arthur Ashe Stadium, Williams thrashed fellow American Vania King 6-1, 6-0.

But the world number one, who is trying to join Chris Evert as the only women to win at least three straight US championship titles in the Open era, said it was tougher than it looked.

“It’s so hard to play in the wind,” said Williams, who nevertheless came up with 25 winners against 15 unforced errors in the 56-minute contest.

Three of her five double faults came in her first service game of the match as she adjusted to the conditions.

“I really had to adjust my toss today. It was just flying so far. I just should have stopped it instead of hitting it.”

Although Williams has won five WTA titles this year, 2014 has been a substandard season in terms of Grand Slam results.

She has not only failed to add to her 17 Grand Slam titles, she has failed to get past the fourth round at any of the year’s three prior majors.

She’ll try to take another step toward filling that gap on her season record when she faces her third straight American opponent, Varvara Lepchenko, for a place in the last 16.

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And in the meantime, she wasn’t getting sucked into watching the rest of the women’s field too closely.

– Can’t get too far ahead –

“You always hear about who is winning, who is losing. You hear about upsets,” she said when asked to comment on the second-round exits of fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska and eighth-seeded Ana Ivanovic, who were among 10 seeded women who failed to make it into the third round.

“For me, especially lately, I have to worry about my first round, my second round and my third round,” Williams said. “I can’t get too far ahead of myself.”

But Williams’ desire to add to her cache of Grand Slam singles titles won’t stop her from playing doubles with her sister Venus.

The two were in action later Thursday, posting a 7-6 (7/0), 6-7 (4-7), 6-1 win over seventh-seeded Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic on the more intimate Grandstand court.

The sisters’ last doubles outing, at Wimbledon, ended in bizarre fashion, with Venus leading a disoriented Serena off the court after three games of a match against Kristina Barrois and Stephanie Voegele.

Serena later said she had been suffering from a virus.

On Thursday, she and Venus enjoyed their usual camaraderie, and the chance to play on the smaller court closer to their fans.

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“It’s a great experience for us because we get to play together and we get to be together. We just get to talk and spend some time together because we don’t get to spend as much time together as we want,” she said.

The two have won 13 Grand Slam doubles titles, and Serena said the competition has enhanced her singles game.

“To be honest, doubles helps me in my singles game,” she said. “It really helps me make better returns, know what to do better.”

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