Serena Williams is into the Australian Open quarter-finals for the 13th time in her career with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 win over Aryna Sabalenka on Rod Laver Arena.
The 23-time Grand Slam winner, chasing Margaret Court’s slam record of 24 singles slams, was made to work hard by the Belarusian in a match full of powerful forehand hitting from the baseline.
The 39-year-old will face either Iga Swiatek or Simona Halep in the next round.
In a tightly-contested opening set, Serena converted her second set point at 5-4 up on the Belarusian’s serve with a bruising forehand that Sabalenka could only hit into the net.
Into the second and Serena’s serving really let her down, dropping three games as she recorded a 36 per cent first serve percentage. It ultimately cost her the set as Sabalenka punished her.
But it was then Sabalenka who got a bit sloppy with her forehand in the opening stages of the third set. Serena went a break up in the fourth game. It sparked a riled-up Sabalenka into life and she went from staring at a 5-2 deficit in the face to breaking back to 4-3.
Serena would have the last laugh in the end, though, as she snatched the victory with her first match point on Sabalenka’s serve at 5-4.
“I am happy to get through,” she said post-match. “It wasn’t easy and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. She was teeing up on every shot and I felt like I was there, but there were some I was missing. Even the games that I lost were super close. I just thought ‘Serena, you got this’ so I just had to keep going.
“I lost the second but the games were so close and could have gone either way. I was just like ‘come on Serena you can do this’ and stay in there.
On her sister Venus Williams: “It helps a great deal having Venus around is amazing. Not just now in the twilight of our careers but also the beginning. It’s so cool because no one understands the level of intensity or the pressure of the losses and the wins unless it’s someone else in the locker room. She gets it.”
On her fashion line: “On my day off, on my email I have ‘out of office’ but as CEO I had to step up and I was on the phone with my designer making final orders and deciding how much fabrics we need for our new collections etc. and I was thinking ‘oh my gosh I have to play tomorrow but we have to get this done.’ We have some exciting stuff.
On getting gifts for Valentine’s Day: “I actually don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day or holidays. He’s [Serena’s husband] pretty lucky because he doesn’t have to get me anything, but he always surprises me when I least expect it. Every day is like a special day for us.”