Serena advances to quarters in Australia; Muguruza is out

Serena Williams returns to the Australian Open quarterfinals with a three-set win over Aryna Sabalenka

MELBOURNE (AP) _ Serena Williams fell after spraining her right ankle, where she was already wearing a bulky bandage. The body of the American star contorted. His racket flew.

It was the start of the second set of a highly competitive fourth-round match at the Australian Open against a younger version of Serena, Aryna Sabalenka, who sported tremendous serve and terrific flush shots.

And it was a tense moment of Sunday’s game that seemed to elude Williams.

Raising a hand, the veteran indicated that she was fine. He rose to tie the straps of his right shoe again.

It took him a moment to regain control, but he did it just in time. She took the last two games and beat seventh-seeded Aryna Sabalenka 6-4, 2-6 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park.

“ I’m glad I got out of this. It wasn’t easy, ” said Williams, who took another step towards his 24th Grand Slam title, tying a record. The American star is also pursuing his eighth coronation at Melbourne Park.

His most recent big game trophy came at the 2017 Australian Open.

This was the 62nd round of 16 match played by Williams in a major, and the second for the 22-year-old Sabalenka.

They both displayed a similar kind of powerful tennis, but Williams was slightly better, taking the final two games after what had been a 4-1 lead in the final set evaporated.

The 39-year-old American faces Simona Halep or Iga Swiatek in the next round.

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Earlier, Naomi Osaka came just one point away from having her long winning streak cut short, with what would have been an elimination against Garbiñe Muguruza.

But the Japanese did not waver at the climax of this duel between tennis players with great hitting and who have been at the top of the ladder.

Osaka survived two match points and defeated the Spanish-Venezuelan 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 at Arena Rod Laver to reach the quarterfinals.

In that instance, the Japanese will collide with the Taiwanese Hsie Su-wei, 35 years old.

Third-seeded Osaka returns to the quarterfinals of a tournament she won in 2019 to claim one of her three majors. He stretched his number of victories in a row to 18 and stopped the good march that Muguruza had recently exhibited.

“ I felt a bit intimidated, because I knew that she was playing very well before this match, ” Osaka said. “ At stressful points, I felt like I had to be myself. I know I probably made a lot of unforced errors today, but I also think it was necessary, because I couldn’t give her shots that she could take advantage of. ”

Osaka made more unforced errors, 38 versus 28. But he outscored Muguruza in winners, 40-24.

“ She is playing great. He made great shots. He has a great serve, ” Muguruza said. “ That gives you a lot of free points. ”

Hsieh, 71st in the ranking, defeated Maketa Vondrousova, a finalist at the 2019 French Open, 6-4, 6-2. She thus became the oldest tennis player to debut in the quarterfinals of a major in the professional era.

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“ I tried to pretend I’m only 18 years old, ” he joked.

In the men’s duels, Aslan Karatsev, a 27-year-old Russian coming from the qualifying phase, eliminated Felix Auger-Aliassime, 3-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.

It is the first time in a quarter of a century that a tennis player from the previous tie has reached the quarterfinals.

It was the second day in a row that the tournament lacked spectators in the stands, after a coronavirus outbreak, amid the restrictions imposed by the government of the state of Victoria.

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