Serena Williams won her 91st match at the Australian Open with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 win over Aryna Sabalenka in the fourth round on Sunday. The seven-time champion found it tough for significant portions of the match but hanged tough to eke out a win against the seventh seed who gave it her all across its full two-hour-nine-minute duration.
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Baseline rallies dominated most of the match with each player trying to outhit the other. Sabalenka’s groundstrokes came fast and fierce at the seven-time Australian Open champion who was forced to play defensive just as many times – if not more – as playing an offensive game.
The opening set was testimony to Williams’ defensive acumen as she captured it 6-4 on her second set point off Sabalenka. The second set, however, took a worrying turn for the American. She kept missing her first serves and her opponent took full advantage of her second serves.
Williams put in only 36% first serves but she did win 83% points off her first serves each time, she landed them in. However, she won only 24% points off her second serves (5/21) for the set. In comparison, Sabalenka held relatively firmer winning 62% and 45% points off her first and second serves respectively.
Williams’ showing was so drastic in the whole of the second set that she held her serve just once across the eight games that were played. The world no. 11 recovered her serve well in the deciding set. She quickly gained a break and maintained the lead until the seventh game when she was broken back by the Belarusian.
Sabalenka, whose frustrations had bubbled over in the fifth game after she failed to convert two break-back points, did consolidate the break back in the eighth game. However, serving to stay in the match in the 10th game of the set, the pressure finally caught up with her.
A double fault and an unforced error off Sabalenka’s racquet brought up two match points for Williams, while yet another error off her forehand gave Williams the victory. Both players won 94 points for the match. Williams, however hit 30 winners and 26 unforced errors while Sabalenka hit 24 winners and 36 unforced errors. In the last-eight at the Australian Open, Serena Williams now awaits the winner of the Iga Swiatek-Simona Halep clash.