Serena makes quarters at Open lead-up

Glenn Cullen
·2-min read

She admits to missing the Melbourne dining scene, but grand slam-hungry Serena Williams is more than happy with the hub set-up for the summer of tennis.

Williams, who remains on track for a tasty semi-final showdown with Ash Barty after a straight-sets win over Tsvetana Pironkova at the Yarra Valley Classic, said the Melbourne model could be one to follow throughout COVID.

"I think it is super-convenient, not having to fly from a different city at least and have everything on the same site to get used to the same conditions and everything," she said of Melbourne Park which hosts seven events across the Summer Series.

"So if there is one way to do it - this is definitely the way."

Things were just as smooth on court for the 23-time grand-slam champion who made light work of Bulgarian Pironkova in the first set before grinding out the second for a 6-1 6-4 victory.

Showing few movement issues after her 2020 season was brought to a premature end because of an Achilles injury, the American eased into the last eight after the 74-minute effort against the world No.137.

Having already comfortably accounted for Australian Daria Gavrilova, Williams kicked things up a notch on Wednesday, a few too many unforced errors one of the few negative take-outs from the match.

Pironkova hung tough after a forgettable first set, taking the 39-year-old to 4-4 and saving three match points before spilling a backhand long on the fourth.

Williams had admitted she was lucky to even make the starting blocks for the season-opening slam, the COVID-enforced move to February giving her just enough time to fully recover and prepare after the injury.

"I feel great now," she said of the Achilles issue.

She'll now be eyeing off a deep run in her only lead-up to the Melbourne major, the ultimate goal to equal Margaret Court's 24 grand-slam singles titles when plays at the Australian Open.