The Williams sisters are often criticised for their failings away from the Grand Slam events, but nobody can argue with their records at the majors. They have 17 singles and eight doubles titles between them, while Venus has missed only four Grand Slam tournaments since making her debut at Roland Garros 12 years ago.
Playing a sensible schedule has helped Venus Williams, in particular, to retain a high level of fitness over the years, which made it a surprise when she went on court against Kateryna Bondarenko yesterday wearing a support for her left knee. There did not seem to be a problem for the defending champion as she swept to a 6-3, 6-2 victory, but it inevitably raised questions about her fitness.
After the match Williams would not go into details about her problem or reveal how much pain she had felt. "I felt really comfortable in the strap," she said. "I needed some support and then I went and got the support and then I wore it in the match. I'll be wearing it in doubles, too. So it's working out. I think all the players might start wearing it because it's so supportive."
She added: "It's important to stay physically and mentally refreshed. I definitely see at this point in my career that my priorities will change to making sure of that. That will make my career even longer than what it has been – and successful."
Bondarenko, the world No 73, struggled in particular to cope with Williams's pounding serve. In one game she hit three aces at speeds of up to 115mph. Asked about her serve, Williams said: "In previous years I felt like I just willed it in. This year I feel like technically I'm just a lot better, so it goes in easier."
Williams now plays Carla Suarez Navarro, who beat her in their only previous meeting, at the Australian Open earlier this year. The 20-year-old Spaniard, who is No 34 in the world rankings, earned her place in the third round by beating Russia's Ekaterina Makarova 7-5, 4-6, 6-1.
Dinara Safina, the world No 1, and Svetlana Kuznetsova, the French Open champion, also went through in straight sets. Safina beat Rossana de los Rios 6-3, 7-5, while Kuznetsova swept aside Pauline Parmentier for the loss of only four games. Ana Ivanovic saw off Sara Errani, winning 7-5, 6-1.
In the men's singles Andy Roddick reached the third round with a 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Russia's Igor Kunitsyn. He now plays Austria's Jürgen Melzer, a straight-sets winner over Benjamin Becker. Fernando Gonzalez dropped a set to Leonardo Mayer but emerged unscathed along with fellow seeds, Gilles Simon (8), Nikolay Davydenko (12) and David Ferrer (16).