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Serena up for battle of the sexes against Murray

By Toby Davis

LONDON (Reuters) - Serena Williams' iron grip on the women's game has reached such a level that even Andy Murray fancies taking on the American.

Williams showed she remains the immovable rock at the top of women's tennis with a comfortable 6-3 6-2 win over France's Caroline Garcia at Wimbledon on Thursday, exhibiting none of the vulnerability that sent her rivals tumbling 24 hours earlier.

Murray, second-ranked in the highly competitive men's game, has seen enough to make him think the ultra-athletic Williams has the tools to give him a match, challenging her in his BBC blog to a showdown in Las Vegas.

Williams is game, but she is not feeling confident.

"He wants to play me?," she said after moving into the third round. "Is he sure? That would be fun. I doubt I'd win a point, but that would be fun.

"He's probably one of the top three people I definitely don't want to play. But maybe we can have a little bit of a showdown," Williams added.

The battle of the sexes has had a prominent place in the history of tennis stretching back to Bobby Riggs' efforts to prove a macho point against then Wimbledon champion Billy Jean King 40 years ago.

The format was dusted off in 1992 when Martina Navratilova took on Jimmy Connors, but with the rules slightly altered in her favor and without the burning chauvinism that had marked the earlier clash.

SERENA'S TERMS

Should Murray and Williams ever set this up, the American wants it to be on her terms.

"I get alleys (tramlines)," she said. "He gets no serves. I get alleys on my serves, too. He gets no legs, yeah."

In the real world, Williams set about returning the tournament Richter scale to normal against Garcia on Thursday, after tremors ripped through the All England Club the previous day, leaving seeds cast aside in the women's and men's draws.

Williams' French Open final opponent Maria Sharapova bowed out moaning about the slippery courts and second seed Victoria Azarenka exited through injury without hitting a ball on Wednesday after suffering a knee injury in her opening match.

Williams showed she is made of sterner stuff.

Her 19-year-old opponent, ranked 100 in the world, had a rasping forehand and booming serve, but could not put it all together consistently enough to trouble Williams.

HIGHER TEMPO

In a rematch of a second-round clash at the French Open last month, Williams noticeably upped the tempo in the fifth game of the first set to break and then closed it out after 30 minutes with a second coup against the serve.

Another two breaks in the second set wrapped up the encounter to set up a third-round match against the 42-year-old Japanese Kimiko Date-Krumm.

Asked to pick a winner between her younger self and the 2013 version, Williams said probably what every women's player past or present has thought: "I wouldn't want to play me at 21 or 31."

The consolation prize for those hoping to see an end to her reign is that she will not be around forever and certainly not at 42 like Date-Krumm.

While the pair have never met, Williams' big sister Venus came through a lengthy second round clash against the Japanese in 2011, winning 8-6 in the third set.

Serena has not forgotten.

She quipped: "I think I lost four years of my life watching that match."

(Editing by Ken Ferris)

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