2021 Australian Open fourth round preview: Aryna Sabalenka vs Serena Williams
Photo: Kelly Defina

Seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka will face tenth seed Serena Williams in a blockbuster fourth round match at the Australian Open.

Neither player has a dropped a set on their way to the last 16. Sabalenka defeated Viktoria Kuzmova 6-0, 6-4 in the first round, had a tougher time against Daria Kasatkina before prevailing 7-6, 6-3 before a very impressive 6-3, 6-1 victory over Ann Li in the third round.

Williams dominated her first two opponents, crushing Laura Siegemund 6-1, 6-1 in the first round and Nina Stojanovic 6-3, 6-0 in round two. Anastasia Potapova served for the first set before Williams came back to defeat the Russian 7-6 (1), 6-2 in the third round. 

Sabalenka is in excellent form heading into her fourth round match/Photo: William West/Getty Images
Sabalenka is in excellent form heading into her fourth round match/Photo: William West/Getty Images

This is the first career meeting between Sabalenka and Williams and will take place as the second match of the day session on Rod Laver Arena with the winner facing either 15th seed Iga Swiatek or second seed Simona Halep in the quarterfinals.

Assessment

This will be one of the hardest-hitting matches of the tournament as both players possess a tremendous amount of power. Each woman will want to play first-strike tennis and take control of the match from the baseline.

Sabalenka can match Williams not just in power, but also with her serve and if she mixes up her direction and placement, she should have a ton of success. The American will also be able to win free points on her serve.

Williams is four wins away from her 24th major title/Photo: Mackenzie Sweetman/Getty Images
Williams is four wins away from her 24th major title/Photo: Mackenzie Sweetman/Getty Images

While they have never played, there won't be as much of a feeling out process as you might expect for players that have never played each other since they both play a direct style: power tennis. A win like this could give Williams the boost she needs going forward.

Analysis

In all honesty, Sabalenka should win this match. While Williams has the huge edge in experience and playing in big matches, the Belarussian is in better form. She's playing great, has the firepower to match the 23-time major champion and has more margin on her shots.

This is the type of win that Sabalenka needs to show that she can make a big breakthrough at a Slam. The confidence she could take from a victory over Williams may very well set her up not just for the rest of this tournament, but for the year. 

Prediction: Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets

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