Australian Open 2021: Serena Williams powers into fourth round | Tennis News

Serena Williams’s bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title remained intact as she downed Anatasia Potapova 7-6(5), 6-2 to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open on Friday. On the last day of crowds at the tournament before spectators are banned for at least five days due to snap COVID-19 lockdown, Williams slumped to a 5-3 deficit in an error-strewn first set and had to save two set points at Rod Laver Arena. 

Potapova double-faulted to put the match back on serve and from there it was on Williams’s terms. The 39-year-old American will bid for a place in the quarter-finals against seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka. 

Sabalenka matched her best Grand Slam showing by advancing to a fourth-round showdown against Serena Williams at the Australian Open. 

The No. 7-seeded Sabalenka had already beat American Ann Li 6-3, 6-1 in front of a small morning crowd in Rod Laver Arena. Sabalenka is the only woman among the top 16 seeds who has yet to reach a major quarterfinal. Her best effort previously came when she earned a fourth-round berth at the 2018 US Open. 

“I really want to play well in the Grand Slams, go as far as I can,” Sabalenka said. “I’m trying to come out in the big stadiums and show my best.” 

The Belarusian did that by overpowering Li from the start, winning her first two service games at love and then breaking at love. Sabalenka held every serve and pounded 15 forehand winners. 

Sabalenka, 22, has won 23 of her past 26 matches. She could next face Williams, who was scheduled to continue her quest for a 24th major title by facing Anastasia Potapova in the third round. “I’ll prepare myself as good as I can,” Sabalenka said. 

Later matches on the men’s side included eight-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic against American Taylor Fritz. In other third-round play, No. 14-seeded Garbine Muguruza defeated Zarina Diyas 6-1, 6-1. No. 19 Marketa Vondrousova beat Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 6-4.

(with agency inputs)

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