Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Sports

'Challenged' Venus grabs hold of spot in quarterfinals

MELBOURNE, Australia — Venus Williams advanced to the quarterfinals at the Australian Open for the second time in three years, beating Mona Barthel 6-3, 7-5 today.

Williams, seeded 13th, broke unseeded Barthel's serve in the 11th game of the second set and served out, clinching the 1-hour, 36-minute fourth-round match on her first match point.

"I was really challenged to play my best tennis," Williams said. "It's wonderful to get through to the quarterfinals against an opponent who's on fire."

Williams, who lost the 2003 final at Melbourne Park to her sister Serena, next plays 24th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who beat eighth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets earlier in the day.

Since losing that final in '03, Venus advanced to the quarterfinals three other times in Melbourne but didn't get past that stage.

Pavlyuchenkova led two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova 2-0 in the second set before Kuznetsova broke back. Pavlyuchenkova then broke her fellow Russian's serve again at 3-all, and once more in the final game, clinching the match in 68 minutes on her second match point when Kuznetsova hit a forehand into the net.

"I'm kind of shocked a little," she said. "But at the same time, so happy."

On Saturday, Serena reached the fourth round without dropping a set to stay on course in her bid for a record 23rd Grand Slam title. The second seed beat unseeded fellow American Nicole Gibbs 6-1, 6-3 and didn't face a break point until she was serving for the match. The six-time Australian Open champion next faces No. 16 Barbora Strycova.

"I don't have anything to prove in this tournament here. Just doing the best I can," Williams said. "Obviously, I'm here for one reason."

On the men's side, 30-year-old Rafael Nadal was the fitter and more consistent force against 19-year-old Alexander Zverev, prevailing 4-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-2 to earn a date with Gael Monfils in the round of 16.

"I enjoyed a lot this great battle. I was losing the last couple of times in the fifth set, and I said to myself, 'Today's the day,' " said the ninth-seeded Nadal, who had lost eight of the previous nine times he had trailed 2-1 in a best-of-five-sets match.

Nadal attributed his superior finish against the 24th seed to the experience of 236 previous matches in the majors. "Well, fighting — and running a lot," he said.

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