'Let's go' - Williams puts big-hitter Sabalenka in her place

·2-min read
Serena Williams celebrates after a point in her hard-fought win against Aryna Sabalenka

Serena Williams said she had no problems handling big-hitting Aryna Sabalenka's power game after maintaining her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open Sunday.

The American withstood a barrage from the seventh seed to prevail 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 and set up a mouth-watering clash with either world number two Simona Halep or French Open champion Iga Swiatek.

Sabalenka, who has spoken about modelling her hard-hitting game on Williams, pummelled blistering serves and groundstrokes in the high-octane contest, which was the first between the pair.

But a composed Williams, watched by older sister Venus in the stands, counter-attacked superbly in her first career meeting with the Belarusian.

Williams, 39, said she welcomed going toe-to-toe with the 22-year-old, who was born four months after the American made her Grand Slam debut in 1998.

"It was good. It was definitely a lot of power," said Williams, who hit 30 winners and wore a T-shirt with the words 'Unstoppable Queen' post-match.

"I was okay with it really. If she wants to play power, let's go."

And after her first taste of Sabalenka, Williams said she had faced a heavier hitter in the past.

"I mean, I don't know anyone that hit harder than Lindsay (Davenport), to be honest," Williams said of the retired three-time Grand Slam winner.

"She was the most power player I think I've ever played."

The seven-time Australian Open champion, who has been battling minor shoulder and Achilles problems, said she felt no ill-effects from an awkward tumble in the second set.

"My first thought was -- 'not another ankle sprain in Australia'," said Williams, who rolled her ankle in her 2019 quarter-final defeat by Karolina Pliskova.

"But I knew immediately that it wasn't. Once I realised I didn't twist my ankle, I was like, 'Okay, I'm good, let me just get up'."

Williams was unruffled about the prospect of backing up with another big match, against either Iga Swiatek or Simona Halep.

"It's quarter-finals of a Grand Slam. I've been here more times than I could even count," she said.

"That's the right attitude for me to have. I'll be ready."

Williams has lost four Grand Slam finals while chasing Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles since her last major victory at Melbourne Park in 2017.