(January 23, 2017) Serena Williams overcame her greatest challenge so far at the Australian Open advancing to the quarterfinals on Monday with 7-5, 6-4 over Barbora Strycova.
There were seven breaks of serve in the first set and the No. 2 seed had 23 unforced errors. Williams needed 8 set points in the first set to finally close it out.
Williams was broken serving for the match, but immediately broke back to close it.
“I feel like it was really good for me to win on probably not my best day, which is always good, because sometimes you rely on one shot and if it goes off, and then, like, what happens now?,” Williams said
“It was really good for me to almost lose that so I know my other game is going pretty good, too.”
“She’s hard to read, she’s scrappy, gets a lot of balls back,” she said of her Czech opponent. “She definitely plays a different game than the other three players I played before.
“It was definitely — it gave me a different look.”
Williams will be playing No. 9 seed Johanna Konta of Great Britain for a place in the quarterfinals. Konta defeated Ekaterina Makarova 6-1, 6-4 in her fourth round match.
“I have watched her game a lot,” Williams commenting on her next opponent. “She’s been doing really, really well, and she hasn’t lost yet this year, I don’t think.”
“Well, she’s been playing really well. She has a very attacking game. I know her game pretty well. I look forward to it.
“Like I said on the court, I have absolutely nothing to lose in this tournament. Everything here is a bonus for me. Obviously I’m here to win. Hopefully I can play better, I can only go better.”
“She’s one of the few players still playing I watched growing up,” Konta said of Serena Williams after the match. “It’s an incredible honor and I can’t wait to share the court with her.”
“I just hope we play a great match and that we bring a good level and so the crowd will enjoy it and will get into it.”
“I believe in my own ability,” Konta said. “I believe in the good things that I bring to the court, and I believe in my ability to fight till the very end.
“Now, there’s that and then there’s also an opponent out there, and this one’s going to be Serena Williams. I think it’s about playing, me going out there and doing what I want to do against her, and it will be about just staying focused on that. And if that brings me good things on that day, and if that puts me in a position to come through, then that’s great.
“But I’ve got to focus on the work and not think of whether I can or cannot beat her. Yeah, I just need to stay on the work.”
Thirty-four year-old Mirjana Lucic-Baroni reached her first major quarterfinal since 1999 Wimbledon when she beat American qualifier Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-2.
“It’s incredible now, said the veteran. “I mean, back then (1999) was kind of expected of me and it was normal. I won a lot as a junior. Then I won a lot as soon as I started playing pro. It was kind of normal. It was normal to win tournaments, normal to win big matches and go far. I mean, it was incredible, of course, but it was more normal.
“But now it’s been so long, it’s extra fun, it’s extra special, for sure.”
Lucic-Baroni will play the winner of the Karolina Pliskova – Daria Gavrilova.
“Pliskova I played a few times but always have super tough matches,” she said. “Obviously playing great tennis right now, probably the best tennis of her career. Doing amazing.
“Same for Gavrilova. We never played each other. I don’t think we have even ever practiced together.
“Yeah, right now I’m just going to relax, watch the match a little bit, see how they’re playing, what’s going on, worry about it tomorrow.”
Lucic-Baroni will face US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals. The fifth seed beat Daria Gavrilova 6-3, 6-3.
Asked about her match performance, the Czech said: “Not best. But it’s a win, so it counts. But for sure we all know I can play better.
“But it was enough. It was strange match, I would say, even from Dasha. I think she didn’t also play really well today. The conditions were definitely different compared to the other days, which was much warmer, more humidity, it was faster. Even with the roof closed, was everything like little bit different, I felt.
“Even I didn’t feel my game that good, I still think was like solid somehow. A few serves, I served well a few times, but not as the last match.”
On the men’s side of the draw, No. 9 seed 2009 champion Rafael Nadal pushed aside No. 8 seed Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to reach the final eight. Nadal closed the match by winning the last four games.
Nadal will take on Milos Raonic, the third seed who defeated 13th seed Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (6), 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. The Canadian came back from a 1-5 deficit in the first set tiebreak to win the first set.
“Most of the match, it was quite inconsistent I think from both of us,” said Raonic who’s been nursing the flu this fortnight. “I was sort of there on the brink in the end of the third set, then turned it around. Made it really count, I think. After I held off those two breakpoints, I was able to reel off seven games or something along those lines. I was fortunate to get that point because it definitely could have been much longer.”
“I was very fortunate to get through today,” Raonic said. “There were moments where it wasn’t looking so good.”
No. 11 seed David Goffin is in the Australian Open quarterfinals for the first time. The Belgian defeated eighth seed Dominic Thiem 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-2.
“I feel tired, but feeling so happy. It was a really good match. Not easy. I started the match really well. Was not easy to control the ball because the first two sets it was really sunny and the ball, it was bouncing really high, so it was not easy to control the ball.
“But, yeah, I’m feeling so happy that I found my way to find a solution in the second. I serve really well. Then I played two really good sets the third and the fourth.
“I’m really happy. It was a big fight, so I’m feeling really good.”
Goffin will play Grigor Dimitrov in the final eight.
“Of course, the ranking, it doesn’t matter the ranking they have,” said Goffin.
“Dimitrov, he won everything. He started the year really well. He won in Brisbane, a really strong tournament, Brisbane ATP 250. He was really solid this week.
“It’s going to be interesting to see the match now. I will prepare my match like always, like I did this week.”
Grigor Dimitrov conquered No. 2 seeds Novak Djokovic’s conqueror – dismissing wildcard Denis Istomin 2-6, 7-6 (2), 6-2, 6-1. Istomin beat the six-time champion in the second round.
“It’s going to be a tough match, for sure, without a doubt,” said Dimtrov. “David is an excellent player. In a way I know what to expect from him. We’ve practiced against each other a few times this off-season. And he’s a very dangerous player.
“I just need to be ready mentally and physically for the battle. Honestly, there’s not much else you can say about that.”