• Australian Open

Serena avenges heaviest defeat as sister Venus rumbles

ESPN staff
January 26, 2015
Serena Williams was stretched by Garbine Muguruza

World No.1 Serena Williams avenged her heaviest grand slam defeat with a 2-6 6-3 6-2 comeback win over Garbine Muguruza on Monday to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals.

She will be joined there by her older sister, as Venus Williams continued her resurgence with a 6-3 2-6 6-1 win over sixth-seed Agnieszka Radwanska to reach the last eight of a slam for the first time since the 2010 US Open.

It is the first time the siblings have both reached the last eight at a major since Wimbledon that year.

Serena was pushed all the way by 24th-seed Muguruza, who matched her in the heavy-hitting rallies, and who had conceded only four games to her in a second-round upset last year at the French Open.

The five-time Australian Open winner next faces Dominika Cibulkova, who reproduced the kind of tennis that helped her reach the final here last year as she beat two-time champion Victoria Azarenka 6-2 3-6 6-3.

Serena Williams was made to work for her quarter-final spot by Garbine Muguruza © Getty Images
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Serena appeared to be laboring at times, and had a serious cough. She struggled with her serve in the first set, winning only one of a dozen points on her second serve as the 21-year-old Spaniard went on the attack. She couldn't convert her six break-point chances, while Muguruza broke her twice.

"She hits the ball really, really big, really, really hard," Serena said. "Someone in the crowd was like 'C'mon Serena use spin' and I was like 'OK'. There's coaches everywhere out here! Thank you."

She hasn't advanced past the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park since winning her last title here in 2010.

There was a lot to distract her. In the first set, six planes were doing coordinated loops and tricks in the sky over Rod Laver Arena, as part of the Australia Day celebrations in downtown Melbourne. She had difficulty breathing at times, and had a heaving coughing fit into a towel at a changeover.

"I've been a little sick the past couple days but I just love it here," Williams said, when asked if she had swallowed a fly. "When I got down, I was thinking, `'What can I do now?' Whatever happens, I thought, I've won this five times."

She gradually picked up power in the second set, broke for a 5-3 lead and then fired three aces and a service winner to level the match at 1-1, screaming as she pumped her fist.

After missing break points on Muguruza's serve in the opening game of the third, Williams saved six break points and needed almost 13 minutes to hold.

Her confidence up, Williams broke for a 3-2 lead and dominated the rest of the match.

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Venus, affected by an energy-sapping illness, hadn't advanced past the third round of any grand slam tournament since Wimbledon in 2011. Now a quarter-final win could put the seven-time major winner into a potential semi-final against her younger sister.

After she recovered an early break in the third, Venus Williams dominated the rest of the match and clinched it with an ace to set up a match against fellow American Madison Keys.

Her inspiration? "Definitely my sister Serena, she's just the ultimate champion," Venus said. "And definitely a lot of inspiration from all my fans who have stayed behind me through thick and thin."

The No.10-ranked Cibulkova pounded 44 winners and broke former world No.1 Azarenka's serve seven times to reach a grand slam quarter-final for the sixth time. She lost the final here last year to the now-retired Li Na, and is back in that kind of form.

"I just walked onto the court and all great memories came to my mind," she said, reflecting on how her run last year is inspiring her at the Australian Open, "I thought 'I'm a great player and I can do it."

"As you can see, I'm not the tallest player on tour, I need to have something extra if I want to beat these top players," she said of her heavy ground strokes. "This is my energy on the court, this is how I play."

Keys advanced to her first grand slam quarter-final with a 6-2 6-4 win over good friend Madison Brengle. It was the first time since Jennifer Capriati played Amy Frazier at the 2002 US Open that two Americans besides the Williams sisters played each other this late in a grand slam.

Venus Williams' win means Aga Radwanska's wait for a grand slam title goes on © Getty Images
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