Sunday, January 20, 2019

Serena tops Halep for QF berth in Aussie Open

   Serena Williams took a big step in her quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title.
   In a matchup of former and current No. 1 players, the 16th-seeded Williams outlasted top-seeded Simona Halep 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 early Monday (California time) for a berth in the Australian Open quarterfinals.
   Williams, who has a residence in Silicon Valley, improved to 9-2 against Halep, including a Williams retirement. They met for the first time since Williams' 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 victory in the quarterfinals of the 2016 U.S. Open.
   Williams will play seventh-seeded Karolina Pliskova, who dismissed 18th-seeded Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 6-1 in 60 minutes in Melbourne.
   In the other quarterfinal in the top half of the draw, fourth-seeded Naomi Osaka will meet sixth-seeded Elina Svitolina.
   Osaka, who won last year's U.S. Open at 20, advanced despite losing the first set for the second consecutive match. She topped 13th-seeded Anastasia Sevastova of Latvia 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
   Osaka's first big win came in the 2014 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford. As a 16-year-old qualifier playing her first main-draw match on the WTA tour, Osaka ousted 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur 4-6, 7-6 (7), 7-5 in the opening round. Osaka saved a match point in the tiebreaker and overcame a 3-5 deficit in the third set. She then fell to No. 8 seed Andrea Petkovic.
   Svitolina, a semifinalist in the 2015 Bank of the West Classic, beat 17th-seeded Madison Keys, the 2017 Bank of the West champion, 6-2, 1-6, 6-1.
   Williams seeks her first Grand Slam title since the 2017 Australian Open. She has reached two major finals since delivering her first child on Sept. 1, 2017.
   Halep lost to Caroline Wozniacki in last year's Australian Open final after leading by a service break at 4-3 in the third set. Halep, however, defeated Sloane Stephens, who grew up in Fresno, after trailing by a set and a break to win the French Open five months later. Halep had been 0-3 in major finals.
   Williams had not lost more than two games in a set in three Australian Open matches this year. Halep, meanwhile, also was extended to three sets in the first two rounds.
   Halep trailed 4-2 in the third set against 20-year-old American Sofia Kenin, who won the inaugural $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Challenge last July, in the second round.
   On the men's side today, 16th-seeded Milos Raonic beat fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev 6-1, 6-1, 7-6 (5) to reach the quarterfinals. Raonic never lost a set in the SAP Open in San Jose, winning the last three titles (2011-13) before the tournament was discontinued.
   Top-ranked Novak Djokovic, seeking his seventh Australian Open singles crown, beat 15th-seeded Daniil Medvedev of Russia 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3.
   Djokovic will meet eighth-seeded Kei Nishikori, who outlasted 23rd-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta 6-7 (8), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (8) in 5 hours, 5 minutes. Carreno Busta led 8-5 in the decisive tiebreaker, when a decision by the chair umpire went against him.
   After the match, an irate Carreno Busta threw his racket bag, yelled at the umpire, stormed off the court and continued screaming in the tunnel. He apologized later.
   In a late doubles match between unseeded American teams, Ryan Harrison and San Francisco native Sam Querrey defeated Jack Sock and Jackson Withrow 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

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