MELBOURNE, Australia - No.2 seed Serena Williams overcame a stern challenge from No.16 seed Barbora Strycova to defeat the Czech veteran, 7-5, 6-4, to advance into the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.
"I feel like it was really good for me to win on probably not my best day, which is always good," she said in her post-match press conference, adding, "Because sometimes you rely on one shot and if it goes off, and then, like, what happens now?
"It was really good for me to almost lose that so I know my other game is going pretty good, too."
Strycova was playing in the second week Down Under for a second straight year, but was up against a six-time champion looking to reach a 10th consecutive major quarterfinal appearance.
Undaunted by her illustrious opponent, Strycova gave Serena all she could handle in the opening set, thrice leading by a break only to see the American claw back to level each and every time.
"She's hard to read, she's scrappy, gets a lot of balls back. She definitely plays a different game than the other three players I played before.
"It gave me a different look; it was interesting."
She saved four break points in the 10th game with the help of some serve-and-volley flair, but Serena was unflappable, finally converting on her eighth opportunity to take the set in just under an hour.
The second set was a far more straightforward affair for the former World No.1 - who could reclaim the top spot from Angelique Kerber should she win the title - as she edged ahead 5-2.
Strycova had one more comeback in her, and broke Serena as she served for the match. The battle-tested No.2 seed already knocked out a pair of former Top 10 players in Belinda Bencic and Lucie Safarova, and used that experience to calmly clinch victory in the very next game, ending the tussle after an hour and 45 minutes.
"I felt like I wasn't serving well," Strycova said after the match. "Serena gives you, right away, the pressure that you really have to serve well. Otherwise there is a winner or you are in the rally from the first point under the pressure.
"I feel like everything depends on Serena. If she has a good day, you kind of don't have a chance, because she plays so well and she plays so quick and her game is so tough to get in the rhythm, to get some balls over the net, because it's long and it's quick.
"Today, I felt like I was there but still far away. I was fighting a lot."
Though Serena ultimately hit 32 more unforced errors than the No.16 seed, she also hit 21 more winners and remained the aggressor throughout, hitting four aces and coming to net 24 times.
Up next for the highest seed left in the women's draw is No.9 seed Johanna Konta, who knocked out 2015 semifinalist and No.30 seed Ekaterina Makarova, 6-1, 6-4.
"I have watched her game a lot," Serena said. "She's been doing really, really well. She has a very attacking game. I know her game pretty well. I look forward to it.
"Like I said on the court, I have absolutely nothing to lose in this tournament. Everything here is a bonus for me. Obviously I'm here to win. Hopefully I can play better, I can only go better."
With five WTA events and the year’s first Grand Slam down, who will top the first Road to Singapore Leaderboard in 2017? Join us on the Road to Singapore and find out on January 30.
This article was first seen on www.wtatennis.com.