by Kevin Craig
Serena Williams didn’t play her best tennis on Monday at the Australian Open, but still managed to defeat Barbora Strycova in straight sets, 7-5, 6-4, to reach the quarterfinals.
“It was a really good match for me, and I’m glad I got through it,” Williams said. “It’s good to know I have a Plan B.”
The 22-time major champion continued her pursuit for major title No. 23 in Melbourne as she had to battle through some early struggles. With many of the top seeds already out of the women’s draw, Williams finds herself as the heavy favorite remaining in the draw.
Williams knows this may be one of the best opportunities she gets to claim major title No. 23, and she surely would not let an upset in the fourth round ruin any chances of that.
“I love pressure. I feel like I deal well with pressure,” Williams said of the pressure she feels as being the favorite, something she has experienced many times throughout her career.
Strycova looked like she was up to the task of upsetting arguably the greatest women’s player of all time as she managed to break Williams three separate times in the first set. The only problem here, was that Williams broke four times.
Every time the Czech was able to break, the American would immediately break in the next game to get back on serve. This happened three separate times, the last time making the score 4-4. After that last exchange of breaks, Williams finally appeared to settle in as she held her last two service games, and saw four break points with Strycova serving at 4-5.
Strycova was able to fight off those four set points and even saved three more in the 5-6 game, but Williams wasn’t going to miss out on eight chances to close out the set, finally breaking in the 12th game to take a one-set lead.
In the second set, Williams continued to look like she had found her rhythm, breaking Strycova for an early 4-1 lead. After not facing any break points in her first four service games of the set, Williams faced two when she served for the match at 5-3.
She could only save the first one before Strycova broke to get back on serve at 5-4, however Williams made sure that the comeback was short-lived. In the very next game, Williams broke to close out the match, earning herself the straight sets victory.
“It’s always good to have something to improve on, and I know I can do better on my serve,” Williams said.
Williams will now take on one of the players who has looked the best to start off this year, Johanna Konta. After reaching a final in Shenzhen and winning the title in Sydney to start off the year, Konta has looked very impressive in Melbourne and will provide a very tough task for Williams in the quarterfinals.