MELBOURNE—We say it about many matches, but this time it was true: This one was over before it began. It was obvious from the start, and throughout, that Greta Arn, a 32-year-old Hungarian with a ranking of No. 92, was hopelessly outmatched against Serena Williams. Most of the time, Serena did what she wanted, when she wanted. She didn’t need to hit perfect shots or take big risks to win points. All she needed was a sweetly struck, but still safe, backhand up the line, and Arn couldn’t catch up to it.
Still, Serena was serious and focused throughout her 59-minute, 6-1, 6-1 win. She did what she typically does: stand in, send a ground stroke at a wide angle, and open up the court for the next shot. Most impressive was her backhand down the line, which she went to on break point twice, and to close out two service games. The tall and rangy Arn had some success late by coming forward, but she made virtually no inroads on Serena’s serve. Williams faced a break point in the first game of the match, and three at 4-1 in the second set, but that was as far as Arn got.
Williams will be happy to advance while hardly breaking a sweat. And she probably won’t worry much about her 19 winners to 16 unforced errors. But she likely won’t be pleased with her first serve. She made just 52 percent of them.
Will Serena need to make more of them against Ekaterina Makarova in the next round? Or Sharapova or Lisicki in the round after that? She may not, if she can win 88 percent of those first-serve points, as she did today. But that’s going to be much more difficult against those higher-ranked players. One thing we can say for sure about her future at this tournament: At some point, Serena will be in a match that isn’t over before it begins.