Serena, Osaka, Halep Win 3-Setters At Australian Open; Barty Back Monday
by Staff | February 14th, 2021, 2:13 pm
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A much-anticipated fourth round line-up in the women’s draw at the Australian Open lived up the hype Sunday in Melbourne.

Naomi Osaka and Garbine Muguruza opened Rod Laver and played perhaps the best women’s match of the event. In this first-time meeting, Osaka jumped ahead early before Muguruza caught fire, running away with the first and going up a break in the second.

Osaka steadied and grabbed the second. But Muguruza was again better early in the third and had two match points with Osaka serving 3-5, 15-40. the 3-time hard court Slam winner dug out of the hole and eventually won the last 4 games of the match for a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 win.

“I think today was just a battle, like if I can just describe it in one word,” said Osaka. “For me, I feel like I’m very happy with myself for the way I overcame the match. I think maybe a year ago – definitely a year ago – I probably wouldn’t have won this match. There are so many things that I was thinking about on the court that just would have blocked me from trying to win the match or trying to problem solve.”

Muguruza said she’ll be in good shape despite two tough Sunday losses to Ash Barty and now Osaka on consecutive Sundays.

“Overall, I think it was a pretty good match. We had a lot of great points,” Muguruza said. “I felt, of course, a little bit disappointed being 5-3 in the third set up, having match points. It’s never a good feeling losing a match that you feel you could have change in one second.

“But I left the court with a good feeling, very good feeling of this tournament in general.”

Osaka has now won her last 18 matches, and now meets the surprising Su-Wei Hsieh.

The 35-year-old Hsieh became the oldest woman to debut at a Grand Slam quarterfinal after cruising past No. 19 seed Marketa Vondrousova 6-4, 6-2.

“She’s one of those players that, for me, if it was a video game,” said Osaka looking ahead. “I would want to select her character just to play as her. Because my mind can’t fathom the choices she makes when she’s on the court. It’s so fun to watch. It’s not fun to play, but it’s really fun to watch.”

Serena Williams was up next against the red-hot Aryna Sabalenka in another first-time meeting. Sabalenka had won 18 of her last 19 but Serena was the stronger player early, forcing the Belarussian. Sabalenka got into gear in the second but in the third, Serena blunted a late charge to win it 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

“I just felt like even games that I lost, I was so close to winning,” said Serena. “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, ‘Okay, Serena, you got this, just keep going.'”

Serena advances to her 13th Australian Open quarterfinal, and 54th at a Slam.

Sabalenka comes up short yet again in her quest for a first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

Serena now meets Simona Halep is a blockbuster quarterfinal. Halep dropped the first then gained revenge on French champion Iga Swiatek with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory.

Swiatek rolled the Romanian in Paris last October, and look in control early seizing her 21st straight set in a Slam. Halep didn’t let down as Swiatek’s level lowered. She get her moving more and gained control.

“I thought before the match that I have to be a little bit more aggressive than Paris,” Halep said. “In Paris I [ very far back, and my ball didn’t go through the court. So I thought that it’s a better chance to go and hit. But then I saw that I do some mistakes.

“I don’t like to do easy mistakes. And then I just step back a little bit. I did a step back, and I wanted just to open the court more to have more time and to roll the ball better. So I did that, and that’s why I could win.”

Serena has won 9 of 11 against Halep.

“You know, it’s all-encompassing when you play somebody like her, and it’s why such a great challenge, because she got a chance couple years ago to play her in a Wimbledon final,” Cahill said. “That was massive for Simona to get over that hurdle. So she’ll go into this match with belief, but the execution is something that depends on the day.

“And she will have belief that she can execute but she has to go out there and play as confidently as she did in the last two sets of this match, play aggressively, have that ability to try to push Serena off the baseline as much as she can.”

On Monday, Ash Barty returns to take on the strong-serving American Shelby Rogers.

Elise Mertens meets Karolina Muchova, Elina Svitolina tests Jessica Pegula and the dangerous Jen Brady battles Donna Vekic.

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