THE damage that rivals are struggling to inflict on Serena Williams is being left to Williams to visit on herself. The ankle injured in her opening round double-bagel failed to prevent the title favourite returning for a 6-2, 6-0 follow-up on Thursday, but blood was spilt on Rod Laver Arena. Her own.
An errant follow-through after a first-set forehand struck against Spanish teenager Garbine Muguruza whacked Williams in the face with her own racquet. ''I think it happens to everyone, but I have never busted it [lip] wide open like that,'' said the 15-time major winner. ''I was like, 'Oh, no. I can't have a tooth fall out. That would be horrible'.
''But it's OK. It's a war wound. I don't know why my racquet was even in my face. I mean, it's like I have been playing tennis far too long to hit myself … I'm like, 'Come on, Serena, pull yourself together here'.''
It was not as if there was not another, more serious physical issue to deal with, for the third seed needed pre-match painkilling medication for the right ankle she twisted in a dramatic moment against Edina Gallovits-Hall on Tuesday.
The five-time Australian Open champion practised indoors, but in discomfort, on Wednesday, and there has been ''lots of ice, lots of massage and lots of positive thinking'' to get her to this point.
''I didn't feel anything today,'' said Williams, who appeared to move more freely during the second set. ''Obviously when you go out to play you're heavy on adrenalin and you're really pumped up. Usually I feel injuries after the match, but so far, so good. I felt pretty [good]; much better than I ever dreamed of expecting to feel.
''I think she moved me more in the second set, so I was able to test it more. I was pretty confident. I didn't feel any pain, so I was really confident with moving. I think the mental is the most important part.''
Her reaction afterwards was revealing, with Williams ecstatic about a monster 207 km/h ace - her 10th - that sealed a victory in which 18 minutes of the total 86 minutes were spent on the opening game of the second set. She had set herself to hit a big one, but surprised even herself.
Williams has hit faster serves that have missed, often wildly, but is doubtful she can break the world record of 210 km/h. Which, typically, does not mean she won't try.
So, next, at she attempts a 37th win from her past 38 matches, is Ayumi Morita, Japan's world No. 72, whom Williams has previously played only in doubles.
Indeed, despite the extreme Thursday heat, doubles with sister Venus followed within hours of her singles, which is nothing Serena said she had not managed so many times before while not quite fully fit.
But enough of the accidents, enough of the dramas, as she quipped on court: ''One day I twist my ankle, today I hit myself in the face. I don't know what's going to happen on Saturday, but I'm hoping that I'll just hit some winners.''
And a potential upside, too, to that lip (dis)service. ''I figure that if it gets swollen, at least I'll have super-sexy lips.''