Australian Open: Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka through to fourth round in Melbourne
Serena Williams recorded her landmark 90th victory at the Australian Open on Friday to set up a fourth-round showdown with the red-hot Aryna Sabalenka, while Naomi Osaka set up a first career meeting with Garbine Muguruza.
The American was made to battle against former junior No 1 Anastasia Potapova, eventually coming through 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 in the heat of the day.
The Russian will leave with regrets, though, having sent down five double faults when she was serving for the first set.
Williams, who is at this stage of the tournament for the 16th time, said during her on-court interview: “It feels good to be in the fourth round and it feels good to get through that match. It is about surviving and getting through to the next round.”
Walking off a winner for the 90th time at the #AusOpen 😊#AO2021 pic.twitter.com/HoXlYQ5pwb
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Williams will take on Aryna Sabalenka next after she showed why she is among the bookmakers’ favourites for the tournament with a comprehensive 6-3 6-1 win over American Ann Li in exactly an hour on Rod Laver Arena.
“Well, she hits very hard. She has a big, big power game. She’s a big girl. Strong like myself. So I think it will be a really good match – with no crowd,” Williams added during her press conference.
The seventh-seeded Belarussian, who has won 18 of her last 19 matches, is relishing the chance on taking on Williams in what will be their first career meeting.
“It’s a big challenge, it’s a tough one, but I’m going to do everything I can to prepare myself for that match,” said Sabalenka, who won three WTA tournaments in a row before losing in her opening match at the Gippsland Trophy last week.
“I’ll mentally be ready to get this win because she’s huge and she’s a great player, and it’s always a big challenge to play against these kind of players. But I’m going to do everything I can to get this win and we’re all here for the wins and I’m going to do everything.”
Williams added she was disappointed that fans will not be able to attend the heavyweight fourth-round clash.
The American, a seven-time champion at the Australian Open, said: “It’s rough. It’s going to be a rough few days for, I think, everyone. But we’ll hopefully get through it.
“It’s not ideal. It’s been really fun to have the crowd back, especially here. It’s been really cool.
“But, you know what? At the end of the day we have to do what’s best. Hopefully it will be all right.”
When nature 🦋 meets 🎾 pic.twitter.com/v0PIK4NoXb
Third seed and 2019 champion Naomi Osaka set up a fourth-round clash with Garbine Muguruza.
Osaka, who is aiming for back-to-back Grand Slam titles having won the US Open in September, beat Ons Jabeur 6-3 6-2.
The Japanese star is on a 17-match winning streak and reached the last 16 at Melbourne Park for the third time after 78 minutes.
She said: “For me, it was really fun. I was really nervous and scared because I didn’t know whether she was going to hit her drop shot on any point so I felt kind of rushed.”
Spain’s Muguruza, who finished runner-up at Melbourne Park last year, booked her last-16 spot with a dominant 6-1 6-1 victory over Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas.
Three-time Grand Slam champion Osaka and former French Open and Wimbledon winner Muguruza will also be meeting for the first time in their career.
😄👍@SabalenkaA #AusOpen | #AO2021 pic.twitter.com/YCzQl9Pnsk
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Marketa Vondrousova, seeded 19th, held off a late challenge from Romania’s Sorana Cirstea in a 6-2 6-4 win to reach the fourth round for the first time in her career.
The Czech cites her partnership with 29-year-old coach Libor Salaba as one of the reasons behind her recent form.
“We’ve know each other like for like four years. I know him pretty well and I knew it can work for me here also like we understand each other off court and on court, so it’s nice. Of course it’s nice for me to have this backup that I’m playing good and I can see like it’s working pretty well,” she said.
Vondrousova will take on Hsieh Su-wei after the Taiwanese ace reeled off four straight games to snatch a 6-4 2-6 7-5 victory over Italian qualifier Sara Errani.
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