Serena Williams sizzles to victory

MELBOURNE, February 3

Serena Williams sounded a warning for her fellow Australian Open contenders with a sleek 6-1 6-4 victory against Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova to reach the quarterfinals of the Yarra Valley Classic here today.

Simona Halep after beating Laura Siegemund. AP/PTI

After top two seeds Ash Barty and Sofia Kenin faced steep challenges to keep their preparations on course, Williams put up a contrasting show at Melbourne Park’s Margaret Court Arena in the evening session.

World No. 1 Barty, who won 6-0 4-6 6-3, showed no signs of fatigue from having played a late match on Tuesday and started in top gear against Marie Bouzkova at the Margaret Court Arena before her Czech opponent staged a fightback.

Australian Open champion Kenin, seeded second, appeared headed for an exit against fellow American Jessica Pegula when she fell 0-3 back after losing the first set but the feisty 22-year-old found her range and rallied for a 5-7 7-5 6-2 win.

Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam winner and a seven-time Australian Open champion, moved well, looked composed and mixed power with poise against Pironkova, who had won a set off her during last year’s US Open quarterfinals.

Kenin set up a last-eight clash against two-time Major winner Garbine Muguruza, who defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1 6-2.

Danielle Collins ousted third seed Karolina Pliskova 7-6(5) 7-6(3) in a battle of attrition while Nadia Podoroska edged two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 5-7 6-1 7-6(7).

Osaka, Halep into Gippsland last-eight

US Open champion Naomi Osaka extended her winning streak to 13 matches today but only after riding out a stiff challenge from Katie Boulter to beat the Briton 3-6 6-3 6-1 and reach the quarterfinals of the Gippsland Trophy.

Top seed and world No. 2 Simona Halep later had a more routine passage into the last-eight of the Australian Open warm-up with a 6-2 6-4 win over German Laura Siegemund.

French Open champion Iga Swiatek crashed out of the tournament with a 6-4 6-2 loss to Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova, while British fifth seed Johanna Konta was edged 4-6 6-7(10) 6-7(4) by Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu.

Italy seal spot in ATP Cup semifinals

Italy sealed a place in the semifinals of the ATP Cup by winning both singles matches against France, while Germany did their chances of progressing no harm by taking an unassailable 2-0 lead over Canada at the Rod Laver Arena.

Victory for Fabio Fognini and Matteo Berrettini in the singles combined with Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Austria ensured Italy would top Group C. — Reuters

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