Back to normal at Aussie Open

Police defended their use of pepper spray on rowdy tennis fans and the sport’s big guns kept on blasting at Melbourne Park as the Australian Open got back on track on Wednesday.

As the fall-out of Tuesday night’s crowd trouble settled, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova all blasted their way into the third round of the year’s opening Grand Slam, helping to refocus attention back on the tennis.

Andy Roddick and Justine Henin also triumphed, keeping the big names on track down under.

Following a night of television footage and in the face of front-page headlines, Victoria Police vigorously defended their use of pepper spray on Tuesday, saying officers had feared for their own safety during the match between Fernando Gonzalez of Chile and Greek Konstantinos Economidis.

”Our members are not punching bags. We are not there to be the sort of people who want to be unruly or want to cause trouble to the rest of the event,” Superintendent John Cooke told reporters.

”The use of the capsicum spray was in direct response to the threat that our members were under.”

Tournament officials backed the police.

”We said from the beginning that we would not accept the behaviour that is going to disturb and disrupt the others. We work in close partnership with the Victoria Police and in the actions they take,” tournament director Craig Tiley said.

Spanish second seed Nadal hammered his way past Frenchman Florent Serra 6-0 6-2 6-2 before reflecting sadly on the events of Tuesday.

”I think this is only a game and everybody has to know that, no?” the world number two mused before starting preparations for his next match against Gilles Simon of France.

Sixth seed Roddick sped through his night match with Michael Berrer, winning 6-2 6-2 6-4. He faces another German in Philipp Kohlschreiber next.

Storming Serena

Women’s champion Serena snuffed out Chinese qualifier Yuan Meng 6-3 6-1 with a forceful and fluid display.

”Everyone I’m playing is fighting to win as well as I am, so I’m really serious and focused on every match,” the American smiled. Next up is 26th seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus.

Sharapova ended the hopes of comeback mum Lindsay Davenport, smashing her fellow former world number one 6-1 6-3.

”I really treated it as not just like a second round,” the Russian said. ”I treated it as maybe a semis or final. Ever since I saw potential match-up for her I was getting ready for it.”

Next up for her is compatriot Elena Vesnina.

Davenport was initially downbeat but quickly put things in perspective.

”I put a lot of effort into playing well in this tournament. But, I mean, I still feel like I’m the luckiest girl in the world,” she said.

”Unfortunately my son will be sleeping when I get home, so that’s a little bit of a disappointment. But I get to wake up with him tomorrow [Thursday] and continue with this journey of trying to keep playing tennis and have my husband and my son in my life.

”It’s pretty great position to be in.”

Women’s top seed Henin eased up a little towards the end of her 6-1 7-5 victory over Russian Olga Poutchkova but was never in serious trouble.

”I was well into the match and played very aggressive and I did a good job in the first … then I lost a little bit of the intensity, a little bit of the rhythm on my serve,” Henin said.

Her victory lined up a third-round clash with Italy’s Francesca Schiavone. — Reuters

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