Williams Advances in Doha

DOHA, Qatar – Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova eased into the third round of the Qatar Open on Tuesday, dominating their opponents with straight-set victories.

Williams, who will regain the No. 1 ranking if she reached the semifinals, showed no signs of the back or ankle injuries that troubled her at the Australian Open during her 6-2, 6-1 win over Russian qualifier Daria Gavrilova.

“I have it heavily taped. As long as the tape doesn’t get loose, it feels really good,” the 15-time Grand Slam winner said. “Physically feeling better is so good, and hopefully I can stay on that level.”

The third-ranked Sharapova, who won the tournament in her two previous appearances, downed French qualifier Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-2.

American Sloane Stephens, who defeated Williams at the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, beat Anna Tatishvili 6-2, 6-2. Stephens pulled out of Fed Cup against Italy last week after aggravating an abdominal muscle injury and suffering from a stomach virus.

“I hadn’t really been serving since my ab was a little sore,” Stephens said. I didn’t serve that great today. “Actually last weekend I got like, I don’t know, like a stomach virus or something. … I’m just happy that I can play now.”

Williams broke Gavrilova to go up 4-2 in the first set and took a 5-0 lead in the second. Williams then saved five break points before serving out the match when the 160th-ranked Gavrilova hit a forehand long.

Williams acknowledged she has to do better on her first serve, which is considered among the best in the women’s game. She hit the mark just over half the time.

“I wasn’t making my first serve today,” she said. “It’s always something I can work on and try to do better in my next round.”

Sharapova broke the 172nd-ranked Garcia twice go up 3-0 in the first set. Garcia won the next two games but Sharapova broke for a third time. The second set went with serve through the first five games until Sharapova broke to go up 4-2, and she clinched the win when the Frenchwoman hit a forehand long.