Serena Williams Advances to Australian Open QF with Win vs. Aryna Sabalenka

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst IIFebruary 14, 2021

United States' Serena Williams celebrates after winning her fourth round match against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021.(AP Photo/Hamish Blair)
Hamish Blair/Associated Press

Serena Williams' quest for a 24th major tournament victory remains alive and well at the Australian Open

No. 10 Williams upset No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 on Saturday night to lock up a spot in the quarterfinals.

#AusOpen @AustralianOpen

.@serenawilliams fights on! 👑 Serena defeats a gallant Sabalenka 6-4 2-6 6-4 in one of the most intense matches of the tournament 👏 #AusOpen | #AO2021 https://t.co/lvZBwD3ntJ

"I'm happy to get through that one," Williams said in her post-match interview. "It wasn't easy. She was teeing off on every shot." 

One bad set nearly derailed Williams' tournament. She recovered like the savvy veteran she's proved to be time and time again. 

After going down 3-0 in the middle frame, Williams finally slowed Sabalenka's momentum by breaking her opponent's serve. It mostly went for naught as Sabalenka returned the favor in the first, third and fifth games of the set, but the two games Williams won became a confidence-builder heading into the third set.

"The games were so close, they could've gone either way," Williams said of the second set. 

#AusOpen @AustralianOpen

👋👋 🤷🏽‍♀️🤷🏽‍♀️ 😬😬 👋👋 👍👍 @serenawilliams | #AusOpen | #AO2021 https://t.co/y9dGSWeeMB

If the middle frame saw Williams playing defense, the third set saw the tennis icon on the attack. Williams set up an epic run for the win by taking a 4-1 lead, featuring a third game sweep that required less than a minute for Williams to win.

Sabalenka came back with three straight games, including another break of Williams' serve, to knot things up at 4-4 just when it looked like Williams was ready to coast to the finish. Instead, Sabalenka made her earn it, serving to go up 5-4 and then hanging on as Sabalenka served to avoid elimination.

Dan Wolken @DanWolken

Serena wins 6-4 in the third. Really served well at the end after a bad second and Sabalenka choked a little bit serving at 4-5. Experience won in the end

Williams sat back as Sabalenka imploded, double-faulting on her second serve followed by two more unforced errors to close out the match. 

Overall, Williams won on 78 percent of her first serves, went 13-of-15 on points at the net and held on to win four of nine break points. 

One year after Williams was eliminated in the third round, the seven-time Australian Open winner is back in the quarterfinals for the 13th time, where she'll face the winner between No. 2 Simona Halep and No. 15 Iga Swiatek as she seeks her first title in Melbourne since 2017.