Date: 14 February 2021
Tournament: Australian Open 2021
Round: Fourth round (Round of 16)
Venue: Melbourne, Australia
Category: Grand Slam
Surface: Outdoor hardcourt
Prize money: AUD 80,000,000
Live telecast: USA - ESPN / Tennis Channel | UK - Eurosport Player | India - Sony Six
Serena Williams vs Aryna Sabalenka preview
Serena Williams faced her toughest test of the 2021 Australian Open during her third-round match against Anastasia Potapova on Friday. The 23-time Major champion came back from 5-3 down in the opening set and saved a couple of set points as well before completing a 7-6 (5), 6-2 win.
Williams will next face the dangerous Aryna Sabalenka in the Round of 16. The Belarusian breezed past Ann Li in her third-round fixture, winning 6-3, 6-1.
Serena Williams had an uncharacteristically slow and erratic start against Potapova, racking up 25 unforced errors in the first set. The American’s misery was compounded by her second serve, which lacked teeth in the face of Potapova's aggressive return.
But despite the strongest elements of her game not working, Williams maintained her composure to take the opening set in the tiebreak.
The second set was then mostly smooth sailing for the seven-time Australian Open champion. Williams broke her Russian opponent three times while committing a mere six unforced errors to wrap it up 6-2.
Nevertheless, Williams’ scratchy first-set form would be of some concern ahead of her clash against Aryna Sabalenka.
Sabalenka required just over an hour to get past Ann Li, unleashing 19 winners while committing a mere nine unforced errors. But while the scoreline suggests the match was one-sided, Li did ask some questions of Sabalenka’s serve.
The Belarusian had to produce some powerful ball-striking to get out of trouble, and she managed to save all four break points she faced.
Aryna Sabalenka has won 18 of her last 19 matches, dating back to last year’s Ostrava Open. Her only loss during this run came at the recent Gippsland Trophy, where she was ousted in the opening round by Kaia Kanepi.
Serena Williams vs Aryna Sabalenka head-to-head
Serena Williams and Aryna Sabalenka have never faced each other on tour before, so their head-to-head currently stands at 0-0.
Serena Williams vs Aryna Sabalenka prediction
Anastasia Potapova showed on Friday that you can put Serena Williams under pressure by being the aggressor in the rallies. And there is arguably no one better at doing that than Aryna Sabalenka.
That said, the Belarusian will look to vary her tactics on Sunday because Williams is an expert at redirecting the pace of the ball.
The absence of spectators could affect the American, who often looks to the stands for support in difficult moments. Moreover, Sabalenka is enjoying the best form of her life, and will be keen to reach the quarterfinals of a Major for the first time in her career.
Prediction: Aryna Sabalenka to win in three sets.