Australian Open: Serena battles through ankle and business worries in Melbourne

By Sports Desk February 14, 2021

Serena Williams calmed injured fears after coming through a thrilling back-and-forth against Arnya Sabalenka to reach the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

Williams, who is pursuing a record-equalling 24th career grand slam and her first major victory in four years, prevailed 6-4 2-6 6-4 after more than two hours on court against seventh seed Sabalenka.

Her struggles during the second set appeared partly attributable to a fall but Williams recovered her poise and the 39-year-old does not expect any ill-effects in a last-eight showdown against either Simona Halep or Iga Swiatek.

"I don't think so. It didn't hurt at all. I didn't roll my ankle, so that was good," she told reporters.

"Yeah, I think it was just dramatic, me being dramatic.

"My first thought was, 'Not another ankle sprain in Australia'. But I knew immediately that it wasn't.

"Then I was more embarrassed than anything. I was like, 'Oh, my goodness'."

Williams moved well throughout the contest, assuaging any lingering concerns over Achilles problems that have dogged her of late - even manging to rally when Sabalenka reeled off three consecutive games from 1-4 down in the decider.

"I've worked really hard on my movement. Yeah, I like retrieving balls. I mean, obviously I like to be on the offense, but I can play defence really well, as well.

"I do get a lot of balls back when I need to. I didn't think about my Achilles. It's so good to not think about it. Oh, my goodness. It's been a problem actually since 2018.

"I just never want that problem again. It feels really good to just play and to run, to not feel that. It's a great relief."

Arguably Williams' greatest inconvenience around the match was not a physical one, after she had to participate in a Saturday conference call to avert an "emergency" at her clothing business.

"Tennis is a lot less stressful. I don't have to manage a team. I do manage a team actually, but it's different," she chuckled. "Even though I am the CEO of my tennis team, it's definitely different.

"I think a part of me loves being on the court because it's free-flowing. It's not like I have to kind of just manage and make sure everyone is able to perform.

"I have a second career and it's fun. One of our main players, our employees, had an emergency. You got to step it up when you got to step it up.

"I was smart about that. I scheduled a call directly after my practice. I was like, 'Okay, I can do it early and still have the rest of the day to relax'.

"And it was during [Williams' daughter] Olympia's nap, so it was perfect."

Related items

  • Wimbledon: 'Now we're at 80, let's get to 100' – Djokovic makes history with latest victory Wimbledon: 'Now we're at 80, let's get to 100' – Djokovic makes history with latest victory

    Novak Djokovic became the first male player in the Open Era to win at least 80 matches in all four grand slams with victory over Kwon Soon-woo in the first round of Wimbledon.

    The world number three, who is seeking a seventh crown at SW19 to take him level with Pete Sampras and behind only Roger Federer (8), advanced 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4 on Monday.

    That was Djokovic's 80th win at the All England Club in what was his 90th match, adding to his 85 wins at the French Open, 82 at the Australian Open and 81 at the US Open.

    He has won 22 matches in a row at Wimbledon since retiring in his quarter-final with Tomas Berdych in the 2017 quarter-finals, and is 17-0 in first-round matches in the event.

    With 328 grand slam wins to his name, Djokovic is second only to Federer (369) in that regard, with fellow heavyweight Rafael Nadal – in action on Tuesday – boasting 305 wins.

    "I am as dedicated as anyone out there," Djokovic, playing his first match on grass this year, said in his interview on Centre Court. "Now that we're at 80, let's get to 100.

    "I'm not one of the youngsters any more, but the love for this sport still burns in me and I try to play my best tennis at the grand slams and deliver my best at the best courts. 

    "I've said this before but this court is truly special. For me it has always been the court I dreamed of playing and winning and all my childhood dreams came true here.

    "It's an honour and pleasure to be back on Centre Court. This sport has given me everything. I owe a lot to the sport and I love it still with all my heart."

     

  • Wimbledon: Djokovic made to work by Kwon for place in round two Wimbledon: Djokovic made to work by Kwon for place in round two

    Novak Djokovic was made to work by Kwon Soon-woo for his place in the second round of Wimbledon as the reigning champion advanced with victory in four sets on Monday.

    In the first match of this year's tournament on Centre Court, which had its roof closed due to rain, Djokovic was pegged back at 1-1 but ultimately prevailed 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4.

    The six-time champion has now won each of his past 22 matches at the All England Club and will face either Thanasi Kokkinakis or Kamil Majchrzak in the next round.

    Djokovic had yet to play on grass in 2022 prior to his opening clash with Kwon and he was far from his fluent best in the first two sets in particular.

    Kwon earned the first break of the match in the third game with a glorious forehand, though Djokovic hit back with two breaks of his own to edge the opening set.

    The world number 81 earned the only break of serve in the fourth game of the second set, with Djokovic squandering three break points of his own in the following game.

    However, the Serbian showed good signs of recovery – and some impressive shots around the court – by holding throughout the third set and breaking Kwon in the eighth game.

    Kwon failed to take advantage of two break points in the second game of the final set and it was plain sailing from that point on for Djokovic.

    He completed the job in just under two-and-a-half hours and is the first male player in the Open Era with 80 or more main draw wins in all four grand slam tournaments.

    Data slam: Djokovic winning streak continues

    Djokovic may have slipped down to third in the ATP rankings after a disrupted campaign, and he was not at his best against Kwon, but he remains the man to beat at Wimbledon.

    He is without defeat at SW19 since retiring in his quarter-final with Tomas Berdych in the 2017 quarter-finals, with Monday's victory his 80th in 90 matches in the tournament.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
    Djokovic – 30/29
    Kwon – 31/26

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Djokovic – 15/2
    Kwon – 7/5

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Djokovic – 4/8
    Kwon – 2/6

  • Wimbledon: All England Club chairman bemoans ranking points decision with 'no viable alternative' to Russia ban Wimbledon: All England Club chairman bemoans ranking points decision with 'no viable alternative' to Russia ban

    The ATP and WTA decision to strip Wimbledon of rankings points due to the banning of Russian and Belarusian players was "very disappointing", given there was "no viable alternative".

    That was the message from the All England Club's chairman Ian Hewitt in an interview with ESPN ahead of the third major of the year starting on Monday.

    Numerous sporting and financial sanctions have been imposed on Russia for their ongoing invasion of neighbouring Ukraine, with Saint Petersburg stripped of the right to host the Champions League final and Russia removed from Qatar World Cup qualifying.

    The All England Club followed suit by confirming Russian and Belarusian athletes would not be permitted to play at this year's championships, but the WTA and ATP responded by stripping the major of its ranking points.

    Wimbledon's organisers stuck with their decision, questioning the punishment from those governing bodies, and Hewitt says the ban was justified for reasons outside the sport.

    "One was a route to consider having personal declarations from players and, frankly, we did not think that was the right approach for a tournament of our kind," Hewitt said.

    "We were not willing to put in jeopardy any safety of players, and we think that that route would have involved implications for players' safety or safety of their families, which really left no other viable alternative.

    "But also, it was very important to us that Wimbledon, given the profile that we have, should not be used in any way by the propaganda machine which we know the Russian government employs in relation to its own people and how their position in the world is presented, and that would be.

    "We just would not countenance Wimbledon success or participation in Wimbledon being misused in that way.

    "So as a result of the combination of reasons, we were left with no viable alternative other than to decline entries; we hugely regret the impact on the individual players affected. 

    "But we also hugely regret the impact on so many innocent people, which the tragic situation in Ukraine has caused."

    The punishment of Russian and Belarusian stars meant world number one Daniil Medvedev will not feature at the grass-court major, and neither will Andrey Rublev, ranked eighth in the world.

    Women's world number six Aryna Sabalenka was another to miss out, alongside 13th-ranked Daria Kasatkina and 20th-ranked Victoria Azarenka, but Hewitt stands by the call.

    "In relation to the decision of the ATP and WTA to remove ranking points, yes, we are very disappointed with that, we believe it is a disproportionate approach and, frankly, we believe it is more damaging to the interests of a large majority of players, and we regret that decision of the ATP and WTA," he added.

    "We respect that opinions do differ, but we would have hoped that there would have been a different way of tackling that in the interests of the players. 

    "But as regards our decision, we certainly stand by our decision, and I'd say now our primary focus is to get on with the championships and prove that we are really a championship that is the pinnacle of the sport."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.