MELBOURNE (TIPO): Top seed Serena Williams blasted her way into the Australian Open fourth round on January 24, but only after conceding her first set of the tournament to Ukrainian 26th seed Elina Svitolina.
The American, chasing her sixth Australian title, made a slow start before steamrolling Svitolina 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 to set up a fourth-round clash with dangerous Spanish 24th seed Garbine Muguruza.
Williams also began sluggishly in her previous match against Russia’s Vera Zvonareva, conceding there were elements of her game “that I really need to improve”.
In the end, it was the 18-time Grand Slam champion’s big sister Venus who provided the inspiration for her comeback with a back-from-the-dead performance of her own to make the last 16.
“(Svitolina) kept hitting winners in the first set, there wasn’t much I could do,” Williams said.
“When in doubt just start running as fast as you can, that’s what Venus always told me.” She said that while playing she kept an eye on a scoreboard showing Venus’ progress in her three-set win over Italy’s Camila Giorgi, drawing motivation from her sister’s advance.
“(I thought) ‘C’mon Serena, she’s winning, she’s doing so well and I can do better’, you can do it too,” she said.
“We always motivate each other. I’m so proud of her and we’re so excited.”
Williams was full of praise for Svitolina, describing the 20-year-old who was playing at Melbourne Park for only the second time as “one to watch”.
The big-serving youngster caught Williams napping and was soon up two breaks, with the world number one showing the same inaccuracy and unforced errors that dogged her earlier in the tournament.
She broke back and tried to get herself out of trouble in the next game with an ace but Svitolina refused to be intimidated.
The pair exchanged breaks again before the Ukrainian served out the set after 36 minutes.
The American was vastly improved in the second set, blasting down five aces including a 196 kilometres (122mph) thunderbolt, gradually seizing momentum off Svitolina to take it 6-2 after 35 minutes.
The Ukrainian’s serve began to fall apart with a string of double faults and her resistance finally crumbled in the second game of the third set after losing a 23-shot rally to put Williams up a break.
Williams then took full control to hold Svitolina to love in the third set.