Melbourne, Australia (SportsNetwork.com) - Top seed and five-time titlist Serena Williams was an easy winner Friday in third-round play at the Australian Open, while last year's runner-up Li Na was put to the test in continued brutally hot conditions at Melbourne Park.
The world No. 1 Williams wasted little time disposing of No. 31 seed Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia, 6-3, 6-3, to surpass Aussie legend Margaret Court's record for match wins at the tournament in the Open Era with 61.
The reigning U.S. and French Open champion won 74 percent of her first-service points and served 10 aces to Hantuchova's two in the 80-minute rout at Rod Laver Arena.
"It was a tough match ... it's definitely hot, but you have to be ready to play," said the 17-time major singles titlist Williams. "And then you have to prepare yourself mentally, too."
The 32-year-old Williams has won 24 straight matches overall dating back to last season, including a season-opening title in Brisbane two weeks ago.
"I feel like, in life 32 is young. In sports it's old," Williams said. "But for whatever reason, I feel like I just never was really able to reach my full potential, and I feel like recently I just have been able to do a little better. I just keep trying to improve on everything."
Up next for Williams will be former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic.
Meanwhile, the fourth-seeded Li, who lost to two-time reigning champion Victoria Azarenka in last year's Aussie finale, was nearly stunned by 26th- seeded Czech Lucie Safarova, but rallied to pull out a 1-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 victory in two hours, 37 minutes.
The former French Open champion and two-time Aussie Open runner-up Li will face 22nd-seeded Russian Ekaterina Makarova in the fourth round.
The temperature in Melbourne reached 111 degrees at one point on Day 5, but the Aussie fans were rewarded for battling through the intense heat when Aussie crowd favorite Casey Dellacqua downed China's Zheng Jie 6-2, 6-4.
Also moving on Friday was No. 9 seed Angelique Kerber, as last week's Sydney runner-up doused upstart American Alison Riske 6-3, 6-4, and the 14th-seeded former French Open winner and 2008 Aussie Open runner-up Ivanovic, who dismissed 17th-seeded Aussie and former U.S. Open champ Sam Stosur 6-7 (8-10), 6-4, 6-2. Stosur has always struggled at her home Grand Slam, going just 17-12 and failing to ever get past the fourth round.
The aforementioned Makarova downed Romanian Monica Niculescu 6-4, 6-4 and 30th-seeded rising Canadian Eugenie Bouchard cruised past American Lauren Davis 6-2, 6-2. Bouchard will encounter Dellacqua on Sunday.
Also on a steamy Day 5, 28th-seeded Italian Flavia Pennetta was a 6-1, 7-5 winner over German Mona Barthel. Pennetta's fourth-round opponent will be the left-handed Kerber.
The third round is scheduled to conclude on Saturday, including matches for the second-seeded former world No. 1 and reigning two-time Aussie champion Azarenka and third-seeded former top-ranked star and 2008 Melbourne titlist Maria Sharapova.
Azarenka will take on Austrian Yvonne Meusburger, while Sharapova will battle 25th-seeded Frenchwoman Alize Cornet. Sharapova is also a two-time Aussie runner-up, including two years ago against her rival Azarenka.
Also on Saturday, fifth-seeded former Wimbledon runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska will face 29th-seeded Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, eighth-seeded former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic will be opposed by Japan's Kurumi Nara, and 10th-seeded former top-ranked star Caroline Wozniacki will battle hot Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, who captured her first-ever WTA title in Hobart last week.
The Day 6 schedule will also feature 11th-seeded Romanian Simona Halep and 13th-seeded American Sloane Stephens.