Tennis

Serena Williams grateful to go the distance in the second round

Serena Williams rallied from a set down to beat journeywoman Christina McHale at the WTA Auckland Classic yesterday, saying it was just the workout she needed.

With her focus on winning a 24th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, Williams said she needed all the court time she can get after a long off-season since losing September's US Open final.

It took the top seed two hours to put away McHale and advance to a quarter-final with Germany's Laura Siegemund, who ousted teen prodigy Coco Gauff 5-7, 6-2, 6-3 in the second round.

Williams was broken three times before losing the first set 3-6, but she recovered to take the next two sets 6-2, 6-3 in the all-American affair.

"I really need to play matches like that to get to my goals," said Williams, who is determined to equal the record of 24 Grand Slams held by Australian great Margaret Court.

"Tournament time is super-important, match time is good. After losing that first set, I'm just glad to be still in the event."

McHale, 27, used her speed around the court in extended rallies which often produced unforced errors from the 38-year-old Williams in the early stages.

But, just as it looked as if Williams was in a slump at 1-4 down after five games, the world No. 10 got to grips with the blustery conditions and McHale's agility, and began to take control.

It was the reverse from the 15-year-old Gauff, seen as one of the rising stars, who started strongly against Siegemund but faded as the match wore on.

The 31-year-old Siegemund, who played her first WTA qualifier in 2003 before Gauff was born, was up 5-4 and serving when the American broke twice to take the first set.

But from there, she used her considerable experience to ruffle the teenager, forcing her behind the baseline and then drawing her forward with deft drop-shots.

As Gauff showed signs of being rattled, she lost the steeliness she showed when she burst into the limelight last year with a win over Venus Williams on her way to Wimbledon's fourth round as a qualifier.

Defending champion Julia Goerges cruised through to the final eight with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Jil Teichmann.

The German's quarter-final today is against Caroline Wozniacki, who survived two service-breaks in the final set to overcome 2017 champion Lauren Davis 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. - AFP

Tennis