Australian OpenTop seed Novak Djokovic found Russian Andrey Kuznetsov an easy meat for his second round feast. Nearly the same was true for 8th seed Milos Raonic, who overpowered American Donald Young with a solid performance. But no.1 women’s seed Serena Williams stuttered in first set against world’s 203rd ranked player, Vera Zvonareva of Russia. Serena allowed Zvonareva to hold three set points against her before drawing on her experience to produce two forehand winners and an ace to save the set. Thereafter, Serena reeled off 10 straight games to ensure her entry to the third round. On Thursday, there were two guys, who found themselves in trouble in their second round matches. One was defending champion Stan Wawrinka and the other; Kei Nishikori. On paper, Wawrinka won in three sets but the score-line doesn’t tell the truth as Wawrinka was pushed all the way by 194th-ranked Romanian Marius Copil. 5th seed Japanese Kei Nishikori was harried by Ivan Dodig of Croatia for four hard-fought sets and at times, it looked as if Nishikori’s Australian Open campaign had come to an end. But the Japanese fought to win the close match. The best performance on Thursday came from unseeded Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, who announced her return to active tennis with straight sets victory over her close friend and no.8 seed Caroline Wozniacki.

For Novak Djokovic, second round encounter with Andrey Kuznetsov looked like a child’s play. The top seed blitzed past the Russian with remarkable ease by coming through 6-0, 6-1, 6-4 in 84 minutes to set up a clash with Spain’s Fernando Verdasco. In a match that completely belonged to the Serb, who remained cool, calm and totally in control from first ball until the last.

Canadian Milos Raonic also had an easy passage in the third round by defeating USA’s Donald Young. Raonic played superbly against Young despite the second set tie-break. The Canadian’s service delivery and court coverage was exemplary and he looked a winner from the start. The awestruck American watched 17 aces fly by as also the 26 winners on either side. Except the second set that was decided on tie-break, Raonic easily broke Young’s service in first and third sets and coasted to a 6-4, 7-6, 6-3 win.

Top women’s seed and five-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams had heavy problems in first set against Russian Vera Zvonareva, who played an aggressive game early on and broke Serena twice in first set. Serena recouped one break but still trailed 3-5 on her serve in the ninth game. The veteran Russian was relentless and forced three break points to scare Serena. But the top seed not only saved her game, she took the next 10 games consecutively to claim the 7-5, 6-0 win in 1½ hours.

Reigning champion Stan Wawrinka had problems in his second round match against Romanian qualifier Marius Copil, who didn’t allow the Swiss to dictate terms. Copil delivered 17 aces and also recorded the fastest serve at Melbourne Park this season. He looked a dominant player in first two sets but couldn’t control his instincts at crunch times. His lack of poise allowed Wawrinka to get away and reach the third round with a 7-6, 7-6, 6-3 victory.

Japanese Kei Nishikori also had a tough second round match against Ivan Dodig of Croatia. Nishikori kept running all the time, retrieving sharply angled volleys and hard on-court smashes. He lost the first set 4-6 but kept himself afloat with sheer will and a fine all-court game to finally win 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 against the irrepressible Croat. Veteran Australian Lleyton Hewitt played his 13th five-setter at Australian Open on Thursday but that proved unlucky for him as he went down 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 4-6, 2-6 against Germany’s Benjamin Becker. It was ironical because Hewitt had taken the first two sets with remarkable ease. Probably, he suffered a loss in concentration as the count of unforced errors kept mounting later in the match.

The day’s best match featured two close friends in a vitally important second round match, when Belarus’s Victoria Azarenka faced Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark. Unseeded this year for the first time since 2007, Azarenka badly needed to prove a point. She did that with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Wozniacki. Playing flawless tennis, Vika didn’t allow Wozniacki any leeway to challenge her at any time during the match.

In other matches on Thursday, 9th David Ferrer beat Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. USA’s Madison Keys beat Australia’s Casey Dellacqua 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 to set up a third-round showdown with Petra Kvitova. Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz beat French showman Gael Monfils in a five-setter but Monfils’ couldn’t-care-less attitude cost him the match as he lost 4-6, 6-1, 7-6, 3-6, 3-6. Double Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova beat Germany’s Mona Barthel 6-2 6-4 in 79 minutes and no.6 seed Agnieszka Radwanska outclassed Johanna Larsson of Sweden 6-0, 6-1. Old hand Venus Williams also moved up one ladder by 6-2 6-3 demolition of compatriot Lauren Davis in 76 minutes.