Serena Williams outlasted a spirited Aryna Sabalenka in the fourth round of the 2021 Australian Open on Sunday. In doing so, the American has written her name in the record books once again - by making it to her 54th Grand Slam quarterfinal, which is the joint-highest along with Chris Evert in the Open Era (women’s singles).
Serena Williams turned back the clock against Sabalenka, outhitting the big-hitting Belarusian. The 23-time Slam champion dropped the second set but eventually prevailed in two hours to make it to her 13th Australian Open quarterfinal.
Williams is bidding to win her 24th Major title, which would see her go level with all-time leader Margaret Court. If she does win the 2021 Australian Open, it will be her eighth title at Melbourne Park - thus also toppling Court as the woman with the most Slams Down Under.
However, the road will only get tougher from here on for Williams as she could face second seed Simona Halep in the quarters.
Speaking to the media after her win over Sabalenka, Williams highlighted how she managed to assert herself in the games that went the Belarusian's way. According to the American, she found a way to win the key exchanges by motivating herself to keep improving.
"I felt like even games that I lost, I was so close to winning,” Serenna said. “Not all games, but probably most of those games. I just needed to play better on the big points. I knew that I could. I still hadn't reached my peak. I was like, 'Okay, Serena, you got this, just keep going'."
Serena Williams was at her defensive best against Aryna Sabalenka, returning several of the Belarusian’s venomous groundstrokes with interest. The American acknowledged this during her presser and mentioned how the ghosts of her previous Achilles injury have finally managed to fade away.
“I do get a lot of balls back when I need to,” continued Serena. “Yeah I didn't think about my Achilles. It's so good to not think about it...it's been a problem actually since 2018, so...I just never want that problem again. It feels really good to just play and to run, to not feel that.”
Serena Williams went past Martina Navratilova’s record of 53 quarterfinal appearances on Sunday. However, the 39-year-old still trails Navratilova in the semifinal count by a margin of 39-44.
Williams is one behind Chris Evert’s record of 34 Major final appearances and is largely expected to equal, if not better that, by the time she calls it a day.
Where does Serena Williams’ record of 54 quarterfinals rank in all of tennis?
Counting just the Open Era statistics, Serena Williams’ joint record of 54 Major quarterfinals puts her in second place among both men and women. Williams’ tally of 54 is currently three shy of men’s all-time leader Roger Federer, who has made it to the last-eight 57 times (and counting).
However, Serena Williams' tally is comfortably higher than the likes of Rafael Nadal (42), Novak Djokovic (47), Pete Sampras (29), Jimmy Connors (41), Andre Agassi (36) and Andy Murray (30).
With Djokovic and Nadal well into their 30s, it seems unlikely that either of them will ever match Serena’s final tally.