Williams, Dementieva, Hantuchova win

Updated: June 26, 2009, 6:57 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

WIMBLEDON, England -- Serena Williams walked onto Court 2 for her match Friday six minutes late. Otherwise she remained right on schedule at Wimbledon.

The two-time champion became the first player to earn a spot in the second week of the tournament when she beat Roberta Vinci 6-3, 6-4 in the third round.

As Vinci waited for her tardy opponent to arrive for their noon start, there was brief speculation Williams might be a no-show. Once that ended, so did the prospect of an upset.

Williams said she was late heading to the court at the south end of the club because she was awaiting an escort.

"I thought someone was going to come get me," she said. "I was waiting and waiting. Finally I was like, 'OK, I think I'm just going to go out.' I'm used to someone coming and saying, 'OK, let's go.' "

The mix-up didn't rattle Williams, who hit 10 aces and committed only 12 unforced errors to win for the 172nd time in 200 Grand Slam matches. The only other woman to play so many matches in major tournaments is her sister, five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams (219).

The No. 2-seeded Williams used her penetrating strokes to push Vinci around the court. One time the Italian scrambled to retrieve a shot in the corner several steps beyond the lines and then stood helpless as Williams hit a winner into the other corner.

Only briefly did Williams waver, with a series of misplays midway through the second set. She squealed in anguish when poor aim cost her a point at the net. She squealed again when she double-faulted on break point. When she pulled a backhand wide to lose another game, she stomped the grass and said, "Ai-yi-yi."

Serving at 4-3, she fell behind 0-30 before hitting three aces to hold. Two games later, one final ace gave her the match, and she screamed, "Yes!"

"I don't think I played great today at all," Williams said. "I'm just glad to have gotten through it and go on to the next match."

Williams' opponent in the round of 16 on Monday will be Daniela Hantuchova, who beat Ai Sugiyama 6-4, 6-3. Williams is 6-1 against Hantuchova.

"She's such a smooth player," Williams said. "I have to make sure I don't rush myself, because she is playing well, and I think she's moving well. So I'm going to have to really bring a tough game."

Over on Centre Court, the new retractable roof remained open for a fifth consecutive day, despite rain in the forecast.

Victoria Azarenka made a successful Centre Court debut by beating Sorana Cirstea 7-6 (2), 6-3. Gisela Dulko, who upset 2004 champion Maria Sharapova in the second round, was eliminated by No. 10 Nadia Petrova 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, while No. 12 Marion Bartoli, the 2007 runner-up at the All England Club, was beaten by Francesca Schiavone 7-6 (5), 6-0.

Seventh-seeded Vera Zvonareva, slowed by an ankle injury since April, pulled out before her match against No. 26 Virginie Razzano. Fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva, a semifinalist last year, beat qualifier Regina Kulikova 6-1, 6-2 and next faces unseeded Elena Vesnina, who beat No. 14 Dominika Cibulkova 7-5, 4-6, 6-4. Cibulkova took a step back after her career-best showing at the French Open, where she beat Sharapova en route to her first major semifinal.

"Regina is a very good player," said Dementieva. "She has a powerful serve, she has a good baseline game ... she has a good future."

But she added: "I was too aggressive for her, I just didn't really give her a chance to play her game."

Last month the world No. 4 blamed a lack of fitness for her French Open third-round exit, but the work she has put in since appeared to have paid off.

"I took some time off after the French Open and was working on my fitness," Dementieva said. "I was more focused on the footwork and just the core-build exercise.

"It has really worked for me," she said.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.