Venus Williams got past a tough opponent in Mona Barthel to reach her ninth quarterfinal at the Australian Open, setting up a meeting with Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Tuesday. Williams took the first set easily after three breaks of serve and prevailed in a tight second set which saw a sole break of serve in the 11th game decide the proceedings in the set. It was an encouraging performance by Williams, who is looking to reach her first semifinal in Melbourne since 2003.
Williams takes the first set
The elder of the Williams sisters had a fast start to the match as she managed to earn a comfortable hold of service to start the match with. It seemed to be a one-sided match in the American’s favour as she took the advantage in the early stages, jumping out to a 2-0 lead by breaking Barthel’s serve with some formidable forehand, forcing the German to be in some awkward positions to hit her groundstrokes.
Williams then used her solid baseline game to save two break points to eventually hold onto her service game and extend her lead to 3-0. Barthel finally got onto the scoreboard after she got a comfortable service hold to love as she stepped up her game and also managed to serve a well-placed ace on game point. Barthel earned break points once again as she went up 0-40 on Williams’ serve in the following game after the German took advantage by attacking Williams’ second serves.
Some wobbly forehands almost cost Barthel the opportunity to break as the American got back to deuce, but Williams missed a great chance to get a game point as she missed a very easy drive forehand volley at deuce. This gave Barthel her fourth break point in the game, which she, fortunately, won due to a double fault at the most crucial moment by the seven-time grand slam champion. There was nothing much to be happy about as Barthel soon went down 0-40 in her own service game, with Williams threatening to break once more.
Getting the game back to 30-40, the German hit a disappointing backhand error to gift the break back and allow Williams to regain the lead. A hold of service finally followed as Williams stepped up her serve to put herself in an advantageous position to close out the set. Crumbling to the pressure in her first ever appearance in the second week of a grand slam, Barthel lost her serve for the third time in the set to gift Williams the set 6-3 after 43 minutes of play.
Williams steals tight second set
The German had to overcome a nervy start to the second set as she was forced to save two break points to hold serve and prevent Williams from taking the advantage in the early stages of the set. Williams then utilized her strong serves to help her get a service hold easily before Barthel also got one of her own. The continuous string of service holds continued when both players looked very solid on their serves until Barthel almost gave a break away at 3-3. The German originally looked poised for yet another comfortable service hold but she was pegged back by Williams, who attacked those weak second serves to get back to deuce.
However, the veteran was unable to earn a break point opportunity throughout the game and Barthel maintained her composure and dealt with the pressure well to hold onto her service game. The set was soon extended to an 11th game as both players were still tightly keeping their service holds, with neither looking to crumble first. Consecutive backhand unforced errors got Barthel off to a poor start in the 11th game as she soon went down 0-30 in her service game. Strong offensive play by Williams then got her two of the next three points, allowing her to take the first break of the second set and earn the chance to serve out the match. The experienced American did just so, successfully serving out the match after 1 hour and 36 minutes, sealing a place in the quarterfinals, her 9th appearance there despite not winning the title in Melbourne once in her career.
Next up for Williams
It would be a very tough match-up for Williams as she would have to face the in-form Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarterfinals. The American holds a 3-2 lead in their head-to-head record, with all of their meetings coming on hard courts. She would be happy that she does not have to face Svetlana Kuznetsova, whom Pavlyuchenkova defeated earlier, as she trails 4-5 in their previous meetings. Nevertheless, it would definitely be a difficult task for both players, but they would be already motivated and encouraged by their impressive run to the quarters.