Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep all battle through to Australian Open quarter-finals
Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka both survived close battles to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open while Simona Halep gained revenge on Iga Swiatek.
Third seed and title favourite Osaka saved two match points on her way to a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory over last year’s runner-up Garbine Muguruza before Williams battled to a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 win against Aryna Sabalenka.
Seventh seed Sabalenka has been one of the form players of the last few months and many people have been waiting for the big-hitting Belarusian to make a Grand Slam breakthrough.
.@serenawilliams fights on! 👑
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) February 14, 2021
She fought back from 1-4 to draw level in the final set but Williams was just too strong in the end.
The 39-year-old, who is now again within touching distance of a record-equalling 24th grand slam singles title, said: “It felt good to kind of clutch that in the end and get through that.
“I just felt like even games that I lost, I was so close to winning. Not all games, but probably most of those games. I just needed to play better on the big points. I knew that I could. I still hadn’t reached my peak. I was like, ‘OK, Serena, you got this, just keep going’.”
Williams next faces Halep, who was beaten heavily by Swiatek as the Polish teenager swept to her first Grand Slam title at the French Open but turned the tables to win 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.
“I just expected from myself a better game, which I did, and I’m really happy about that,” said the second seed.
Williams leads their head-to-head record 9-2 but Halep produced one of the great recent grand slam final performances to win their last meeting at Wimbledon in 2019.
“The game, I think it was one of the best in my life,” said the Romanian. “The best day actually of my life. I felt very confident back then. I felt every ball.
“We played so many times. I know what to expect. I will just try to do my game, and I will be confident.”
Osaka hung on by the skin of her teeth against Muguruza, who was full of confidence after a strong start to the season.
The Spaniard led by a set and a break and held two match points at 5-3 in the deciding set only for Osaka, the 2019 champion in Melbourne, to pull through with a run of four games in a row.
Asked how she had dug herself out of trouble, the Japanese star said: “I’m not really sure, to be honest. I was just trying to fight for every point, then it sort of led me to win.
Keep on keeping on. pic.twitter.com/g3TITAVcbP
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) February 14, 2021
“On the first match point, I was just thinking that I didn’t hit a decent serve that entire game, so I should really focus on my serve. I feel like my serve stats were pretty good that set, so I was just telling myself to do better.
“Then on the second point, when the rally started, I just told myself not to push (the ball) but also don’t do something crazy and make a really bad unforced error.”
Osaka also credited a brief moment of temper for clearing her mind, saying: “I felt the entire match I was overthinking. There was a moment when I got angry and hit my racket on the ground. I feel like I released a lot of the thoughts that I had. It just made me go more into instinct-based tennis.”
Osaka will next face the highly unconventional Hsieh Su-wei, who at 35 became the oldest player to reach a first slam quarter-final in the Open era with a 6-4 6-2 victory over Marketa Vondrousova.
Johanna Konta makes progress while Dan Evans fails as grass court season gathers pace
Johanna Konta is safely through to…
‘A night you will remember forever’ – Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal react to their French Open epic
Nadal went into the contest having won 105 of his previous 107 matches on the Parisian clay, but he was beaten by his great rival.
Rafael Nadal suffers French Open semi-final defeat to Novak Djokovic
The story of the 13th day of action at Roland Garros.
Novak Djokovic dethrones Rafael Nadal to reach French Open final
Nadal suffered just his third loss at the French Open, with Djokovic setting up a final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Phenomenal Novak Djokovic pulls off sensational win to end Rafael Nadal’s French Open reign
Novak Djokovic ended Rafael Nadal’s reign as champion.
‘It was nerve-racking, it was so intense’ – Stefanos Tsitsipas after battling past Alexander Zverev
Stefanos Tsitsipas prevailed in five sets against Alexander Zverev.
‘I’m just going to have fun,’ says Barbora Krejcikova as she looks to win a French Open double
Krejcikova will feature in singles and doubles finals.
‘There is a real buzz of anticipation,’ says Tim Henman ahead of Wimbledon return
The 2020 Championships were cancelled due to Covid-19.
Johanna Konta edges closer to ending her title drought after reaching Viking Open semi-finals
Johanna Konta eyes first WTA Tour title since 2017.
Roger Federer ‘pretty positive about his chances’ as he looks to step up a gear on grass
“I’ve only seen improvement, no setbacks,” says Roger Federer.