Australian Open: Below-par Serena Williams fends off Tamara Zidansek to reach third round
For the second time in three years, Tennys Sandgren defied his lowly ranking to send a top 10 seed out of the second round at Melbourne
Serena Williams admitted she was not at her best as she fought off a stubborn Tamara Zidansek to reach the Australian Open third round on Wednesday.
Though never seriously troubled, the American, 38, looked laborious in seeing off 70th-ranked Slovenian Zidansek 6-2, 6-3 at Rod Laver Arena.
The eight seed, who is one one short of Australian Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles, faces China's 27th seed Wang Qiang next in Melbourne.
"It was a good match for me, she was a really good fighter, she did not just let me win," Williams said.
Zidansek, 22, put up resistance in the second set with Williams twice failing to break when 40-0 up on the Slovenian's serve.
Williams then struggled through her own service game at 3-2 down, with a brief stoppage while the roof closed because of more rain in Melbourne.
Williams finally broke Zidansek's stubborn resolve in the seventh game, getting the break of serve on the way to victory in one hour 18 minutes.
The American great described herself as "frustrated" by her failure to bury her opponent in those two service games.
"I made so many errors in a row and had to battle through my own internal problems," said Williams.
"I knew I had to play better and couldn't keep making unforced errors like that, otherwise it was going to be a long evening for me."
Sandgren downs eighth seed Berrettini in five sets
For the second time in three years, Tennys Sandgren defied his lowly ranking to send a top 10 seed out of the second round of the Australian Open when he outslugged Matteo Berrettini 7-6, 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 7-5.
The world No 100 felt he rode his luck a little after giving up the third and fourth sets to the eighth seeded Italian young gun with barely a whimper before rallying to snatch his chance of one of the biggest victories of his career.
"It's a top 10 at a slam so it's right up there," the affable 28-year-old American told reporters.
"He played too good in the fourth, kind of beat me up a little bit, so going into the fifth set I didn't feel like I had much momentum ... I think I got away with one there."
Sandgren has been getting away with a good few wins at Grand Slams since he beat ninth seed and former champion Stan Wawrinka in the second round in 2018 and embarked on a stunning run to the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park.
Putting his poor ranking down to his inability to manage his schedule sensibly, Sandgren said he was just getting better at planning his training to peak at the four major tournaments.
"I like these tournaments a lot, it's one of the few weeks where it feels like tennis actually means something," he said.
"Sometimes it feels like you get lost when you are travelling 25-30 weeks of the year. I feel like my game comes together in weeks like this."
The 2018 run, which also included a win over fifth seed Dominic Thiem in the last 16, convinced Sandgren that he had the potential to do well at Grand Slams.
Translating that into outright confidence was another matter entirely.
"Confidence is a very fickle thing," he said.
"It helps to know that you can do something but if you're stuck in the woods and you can't really see the sun, it doesn't matter what you've done, if you can't get a good vibe going, your confidence is lost."
Standing in his path to the fourth round is compatriot Sam Querrey, who came out on top in four sets - three of them decided by tiebreaks - when the pair met at Wimbledon last year.
"We're good friends and he's a great player, he got me in a heartbreaker at Wimbledon last year," Sandgren said.
"I think our games match up pretty well, he's got a great serve and I return pretty well. I'm going to have look after my serve."
Updated: January 22, 2020 02:43 PM