Saturday, 16 February, 2019

Serena Williams vs Simona Halep Australian Open: Fighting qualities explained

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Andrew Wong | 21 January, 2019, 13:52

Serena Williams subdued a stubborn fightback from world number one Simona Halep to take her quest for a record-equalling 24th major into the Australian Open quarter-finals Monday. She's a great player.

Briefly it looked anything but as Halep mounted a huge challenge after being blown away in the first set. I love playing tennis, I love this court and it's really cool to be back out here playing.

While Halep won arguably the point of the match in that game with an insane angled forehand, it was but one battle within an all-out war.

In a see-sawing contest on Rod Laver Arena, Williams put aside a sluggish period to win 6-1 4-6 6-4 in one hour and 47 minutes.

"You know I'm such a fighter", Williams told Channel Nine commentator Sam Smith in her on-court interview after the match, adding "I never give up". I work so hard for every point, it's a miracle I'm here and this is my job.

"She's the No.1 player in the world and there's a reason why ... in order to stay out there I had to play a little bit like I knew I could". Williams, ranked 16th, did not play the Australian Open previous year following the birth of her daughter.

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Staring across the net at possibly the greatest player ever Halep dug deep to repel Williams as the American pushed for a quick kill.

Standing well behind the baseline, she drew Williams into more rallies and began to find her range, hitting the corners to move the American around.

It was risky tennis but as is so often the case who dares wins and at 4-4 in the second set Halep broke again and soon after the match was level.

Halep broke again to take a set off Williams, celebrating with a fired-up double fist pump.

Reset she did but it wasn't immediate, with Halep looking the stronger player for the first 15 minutes of the third set. I was really happy for her, because everyone was writing her off.

Serena Williams has knocked world No.1 Simona Halep out of the Australian Open.

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The two traded breaks in the first two games but thereafter Williams bore down on her opponent, reeling off five games and the first set, her power too much even for Halep's retrieving skills.

But Williams delivered a fatal blow to break for a 4-3 lead and made no mistake in booking her spot in the next round.

She said courtside, "It was a really intense match, with some incredible points".

Williams who won the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant with her daughter, resumed her professional career a year ago and immediately reached the finals of two Grand Slams (Wimbledon and US Open) during her first season since returning from maternity leave.

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.

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