The seventh day of the 2021 Australian Open had no shortage of drama when it came to the top players in tennis, who were playing in empty stadiums for the second day due to a snap lockdown in Melbourne after a local COVID-19 outbreak.
Here’s what happened:
Naomi Osaka saves two match points to survive
Prior to Sunday, Naomi Osaka had been tearing through the Australian Open draw, winning every set she played by at least three games. That changed against No. 14 seed Garbiñe Muguruza, who pushed the world No. 3 to the brink.
Muguruza opened the match by winning the first set 6-4, the first time Osaka had dropped a set in five matches. Osaka recovered to take the second set 6-4, but fell into deep trouble in the third when Muguruza took a 5-3 lead and went up 40-15 in the next game.
Facing two match points, Osaka came alive. She hit an ace, won a seven-shot rally, then hit a winner to hold serve, and won the next three games to record a furious comeback win, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5. Osaka ended up recording 40 winners and 11 aces.
It was the kind of win that can propel a player to a title, and Osaka reaching the quarterfinals is not insignificant considering she has never not won a tournament after moving past the round of 16.
Up next for Osaka will be Hsieh Su-wei, who will be playing in her first Grand Slam singles quarterfinals at the age of 36. Hsieh’s junkballing playstyle and viral interviews, in addition to upsets over Bianca Andreescu and Marketa Vondrousova, have made her one of the best stories of that tournament, and seeing her against Osaka figures to make for highly entertaining tennis.
Serena Williams fights off Aryna Sabalenka
Just like Osaka, Serena Williams got taken to a third set for the first time of the tournament, but the result was the same: a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 win.
Facing stiffer competition against world No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka, Williams looked significantly more mobile than she did last year. Poor serving in the second set cost her, but she dug out the win after a 4-4 tie in the third.
If Williams is going to be moving like that and maintaining her dominant serve for the rest of the tournament, odds are good of her finally tying Margaret Court for the most Grand Slam singles titles at 24, on the Australian’s home turf.
Williams’ campaign will continue in the quarterfinals, against either No. 2 seed Simona Halep or No. 15 seed Iga Swiątek.
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