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Serena Williams overcomes sluggish start, advances in Aussie Open

Sep 28, 2020; Paris, France; Serena Williams (USA) in action during her match against Kristie Ahn (USA) on day two of the 2020 French Open at Stade Roland Garros. Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 28, 2020; Paris, France; Serena Williams (USA) in action during her match against Kristie Ahn (USA) on day two of the 2020 French Open at Stade Roland Garros. Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

Serena Williams continued her pursuit of a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title with 7-6 (5), 6-2 win over Anastasia Potapova on Friday in a third-round match at the Australian Open in Melbourne.

The 10th-seeded Williams came back from a 5-3 deficit in the first set as the 19-year-old Russian became unraveled. Potapova double-faulted five times while serving at 5-4, and Williams won a 21-shot rally before gaining steam in the second set.

“It was good to get through that match,” Williams said on the court after the match. “The first set was extremely tight. I was a little tight, but it worked out. I was able to play a little more free in the second set.”

Williams, 39, is chasing Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam championships while also pursuing her eighth Australian Open title. She will continue her quest against Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka, the seventh seed, who breezed to a 6-3, 6-1 win over Ann Li in a 60-minute match.

Sabalenka’s first-ever match against Williams will not have fans in attendance, however. The state of Victoria is in a five-day lockdown after an outbreak of COVID-19 cases at a Melbourne hotel.

“It’s a big challenge, but it’s a tough one, but I’m going to do everything I can to prepare myself for that match, like mentally be ready to get this win,” Sabalenka, 22, said.

“(Williams is) a great player, and it’s always a big challenge to play against these kind of players. But I’m going to do everything I can to get this win. We’re all here for the wins and I’m going to do everything.”

Also on Friday, third-seeded Naomi Osaka of Japan cruised to a 6-3, 6-2 victory over 27th-seeded Ons Jabeur of Tunisia.

Osaka, who has dropped just 13 games in her first three matches, overcame 28 unforced errors to dismiss her adversary.

She’ll face two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza, who posted a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan. The 14th-seeded Spaniard has lost just 10 games during the first three rounds.

Fifteenth-seeded Iga Swiatek of Poland continued her winning ways with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Fiona Ferro of France. The 19-year-old Swiatek, the reigning French Open champion, advanced to face two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep of Romania.

The second-seeded Halep breezed to a 6-1, 6-3 victory over No. 32 Veronika Kudermetova of Russia.

No. 19 Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic posted a 6-2, 6-4 win over Sorana Cirstea of Romania.

–Field Level Media