Serena Williams has emerged triumphant in one of the matches of the women’s tournament, beating top seed Simona Halep to reach the Australian Open 2019 quarterfinals.
The 23-time major champion held off the gallant Romanian 6-1 4-6 6-4 in her first match against a world No.1 in almost six years.
Six-time Australian Open Serena Williams scored her 17th career win against a reigning World No.1 inside Rod Laver Arena on Monday night, as she came through a highly-anticipated round of 16 match with top seed Simona Halep to reach her 13th career quarterfinal at the Australian Open, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.
After being pushed the distance by Halep after leading by a set and a break, Williams ultimately came through a tense end to the match in which she saved three break points in a key sixth game of the final set.
The former World No.1 earned the lone break of serve in the seventh game of the final set, as she saved a game point before breaking Halep for the fifth time in the match overall in back-to-back games which helped decide the match.
Halep managed to extend the match for one hour and 47 minutes, as she bounced back after being blitzed in a first set that lasted just over 20 minutes, where she broke to love to start the match before losing the next six games.
After surrendering serve for the fourth time in five service games, the Romanian trailed 6-4, 2-1 before sealing her first break of the match, and hung with the 23-time major champion through the duration of the middle set before sealing it with back-to-back games of her own.
Up next, Williams will face No.7 seed Karolina Pliskova in the last eight for the second straight major, as she defeated the Czech in the quarterfinal round en route to a runner-up appearance at the US Open.
The last time Serena Williams came to Melbourne, she was five weeks pregnant and went on to win the Australian Open for the seventh time. On day eight of the 2019 championships, two years older at 38, she dredged up a sliver of her old magic to hold off the robust challenge of the world No1 Simona Halep and edge closer to joining Margaret Court on the all-time record of 24 majors.
It was a typically mercurial performance, that swung between brilliant and desperate.
To get another shot at the prize, the remarkable American has to beat Karolina Pliskova in the quarter-final on Wednesday, and either Naomi Osaka – who famously ignored her meltdown in the final at Flushing Meadows last September to win the US Open – or the sixth seed, Elina Svitolina.
But she flirted with defeat on the eighth evening of the tournament, saving three break points in the third just as Halep seemed to be taking charge. Williams, not at her best, dug deep, broke and held, and the win was hers 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 after an hour and 47 minutes on a mild evening in Rod Laver Arena.
Williams had given up only nine games in her three previous games – a first-week strike rate she hasn’t matched in a major since the 2013 US Open – but she had to step up in class from the likes of Dayana Yastramenska and Eugenie Bouchard.
The world No1 and the real No1 exchanged breaks at the start, before the American, who brought an 8-1 lead to their ninth encounter, pulled away to 4-1 inside quarter of an hour, and polished off the first set in 20 minutes. This was a proper blitz. Then followed the grind, ending with Williams forcing one final tired forehand out of the Romanian.
Serena Williams speaking on court: “It was a really intense match. Some incredible points. I love playing tennis, being out here, and it’s really cool to be back out and playing again on this court.
“I really needed to elevate my game. She’s the number one player in the world and there’s a reason why. She’s a great player.
“I had to play a little bit like I knew I could, and I did, and hopefully that’s the difference.
“I’m such a fighter. I never give up. It’s something that’s innate. It’s a miracle I’m here and I get to do something I enjoy.”
Serena on her next few days: “We normally have movie night on Monday with Olympia but we had it this afternoon instead. We’re going to have a fun morning tomorrow!
“I think I’ve seen Frozen 3,000 times and I’ve seen Beauty and the Beast 4,000. I can recite it. It’s just those two! I’m like Olympia, there is a plethora of movies to choose from!”