Melbourne, Feb 12 (IANS) Twenty three-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams on Friday battled past a determined effort from Russian teenager Anastasia Potapova to book her place in the last 16 of the Australian Open.
In an exciting third-round contest, Williams defeated world No. 101 Potapova 7-6(5), 6-2, saving two set points in the first set and overcoming 31 unforced errors to set an enticing fourth-round meeting against Belarusian No.1 Aryna Sabalenka.
Earlier in the day on Rod Laver Arena, Sabalenka eased to a 6-3, 6-1 win over Ann Li, improving her record to 18-1 since October.
“I came out a little bit not (out) of the starting blocks like I would have wanted to and like I have been since I’ve been playing here, but you know it’s about surviving and playing better every round,” Williams said after the match.
“It was good to get through that match. The first set was extremely tight. I was a little tight, but it worked out. I was able to play a little freely in the second set,” she added.
Sabalenka will bid for her first career Grand Slam quarter-final appearance, having last reached the round of 16 at the 2018 US Open. However, it will be her first-ever match-up against Williams, who is eyeing a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title.
“Well, she hits very hard. She has a big, big power game,” Williams said of seventh seed Sabalenka. “She’s a big girl, strong like myself, so I think it will be a really good match, with no crowd,” she added.
Meanwhile, it was has been announced that from Saturday, no spectators will be allowed at the tournament after the Victorian government announced a five-day lockdown in response to the Holiday Inn Covid-19 cluster.