Serena Williams needed a bit of everything, including one on-the-run, back-to-the-net, no-look, over-the-shoulder shot, to get past a challenge at the Australian Open from a player who’s 20 years younger than she is.
A year after a surprising loss in the third round at Melbourne Park, Williams managed to get past that stage by beating Russian teen Anastasia Potapova 7-6 (5), 6-2 on Friday.
Potapova served for the opening set at 5-3. But the 2016 Wimbledon junior champion double-faulted five times in that game, including twice on set point.
Williams — who has won seven of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles in Australia — then trailed 5-3 in the tiebreaker. But she took the next four points, the last on a 21-stroke exchange that ended with Potapova putting a forehand into the net.
Potapova, 19 and ranked 101st, edged ahead by breaking to begin the second set, but the 39-year-old Williams broke right back with the help of that remarkable get on a lob. She smiled at herself, assuming the point was over — and then laughed upon realizing she won the point, because Potapova responded by missing an overhead into the net.
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