Serena Williams avoided disaster in her 7-5, 6-4 victory over Barbora Strycova on Monday, advancing to the Australian Open quarter-finals at the start of the tournament’s second week.
The six-time champion was broken while trying to close out victory leading 5-3 in the second set but then worked her way back to victory, with Czech Strycova clipping the top of the net with a volley.
After the match, Williams admitted that not everything had gone to plan out on court.
“It was really good for me to win on probably not my best day, which is always good, because sometimes you rely on one shot and if it goes off, and then, like, what happens now?”
“It was good to almost lose that so I know my game is going pretty well.”
Williams called Strycova “a really smart player, who can do it all.”
The 35-year-old had previously not defeated Strycova in three matches at the majors.
“She’s hard to read, she’s scrappy, gets a lot of balls back. She definitely plays a different game than the other three players I played before. It definitely gave me a different look, it was interesting.”
Williams won the last of her 22 grand slam singles titles last year at Wimbledon, but bowed out of the US Open in the semi-final.
The American could claim back the world number one ranking from Germany’s Angelique Kerber – who was knocked out of the tournament by American Coco Vandeweghe on Sunday – if she claims the title this weekend.
Williams next faces in-form British ninth seed Johanna Konta, who won her 19th set in a row as she defeated Ekaterina Makarova of Russia, 6-1, 6-4 on Monday.
“I don’t think Serena Williams needs an introduction with everything that she’s achieved in this sport and continues to do so,” Konta said post-match.
“I’m really looking forward to the challenge, looking forward to being on court and competing against her.”
Also on Monday, veteran Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who first played a match at the event 19 years ago, rolled back the years with a win into the last eight as she beat American youngster Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-2.