Serena grinds down dogged Strycova to reach quarter-finals
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[January 23, 2017]
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Serena Williams
battled a misbehaving serve and scorching heat but stayed cool under
pressure in a 7-5 6-4 win over Czech Barbora Strycova to reach the
Australian Open quarter-finals on Monday.
Second seed Williams was broken three times in the opening set at
Rod Laver Arena and again when coasting to the finish line in the
second but shifted up a gear when it counted to close out the match
in one hour and 46 minutes.
"I think she's a really smart player, she can do everything," said
Williams of the hard-running Strycova, who caused at shock at last
year's tournament by dumping third seed Garbine Muguruza out in the
"It's always good I have something I can improve on and I know I can
do better on my serve."
Williams, bidding to win a record 23rd grand slam title in the
professional era, has now notched 10 consecutive quarter-final
appearances at the majors, dating back to the 2014 U.S. Open.
The 35-year-old great next faces the winner of the match between
Russian Ekaterina Makarova and British ninth seed Johanna Konta.
Williams came into the tournament with doubts about her fitness
after she had only two tour matches of preparation since the U.S.
Open, but she is yet to drop a set at Melbourne Park.
She was left the highest ranked player in the draw after Angelique
Kerber's shock elimination on Sunday.
Worryingly for her opponents, Williams has room to improve as she
was far from her clinical best against Strycova, racking up 46
unforced errors and winning only six of her 14 break points.
[to top of second column]
Serena Williams of the U.S. hits a shot during her Women's singles
fourth round match against Czech Republic's Barbora Strycova.
She did not hold serve until her third attempt and was frustrated as
16th seed Strycova saved seven set points in the opening stanza. It
took a backhand mishit from Williams to close it out, with her shot
barely dribbling over the net.
Williams improved in the second set and raced to a 5-2 lead, as if
keen to escape the frying pan of centre court.
She gave Strycova a glimmer of hope, hammering her 45th unforced
error into the tramlines to allow the Czech to break back to 5-4.
Like so many times before, however, Williams simply broke back in
the next game in a power-hitting assault and Strycova surrendered
the match with a volley into the net.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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