Australian Open R4: (1) Serena Williams vs Margarita Gasparyan
Serena Williams’ quest for a seventh Australian Open title continues on Sunday when she comes up against Russian rising-star Margarita Gasparyan. There were question marks surrounding the fitness and form of Serena heading into the first Grand Slam of the year, however the world number 1 has made an awesome start to the event and is clearly the player to beat over the next week at Melbourne Park.
Serena Williams has gradually improved with each match in Melbourne this week and seems very well positioned to claim her 22nd Grand Slam title. Serena started the week by navigating her way past the dangerous Camila Giorgi with a hard-fought 6-4 7-5 victory. Serena’s next two victories were far more emphatic, a 6-1 6-2 victory over Su-Wei Hsieh and a 6-1 6-1 victory over Daria Kasatkina. Serena’s demolition of Kasatkina was particularly impressive, Serena ended that match with 27 winners and just 8 unforced errors in an extremely clean performance.
Margarita Gasparyan is having a wonderful week in Melbourne, reaching the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time in her young career. Gasparyan has advanced to the fourth round by defeating three pretty similar opponents. The Russian started the week with an impressive three set victory over Sara Errani before recording straight set victories over Kurumi Nara and Yulia Putintseva. I thought Margarita’s best performance also came in the third round, a really dominant display against Putintseva, never allowing the Kazakh to get into the match.
The only previous encounter between the pair took place in the first round at Wimbledon last year. Little was known about Gasparyan heading into that match but she gave Serena a good fight, ultimately Serena claimed a reasonably comfortable 6-4 6-1 victory over the Russian.
Gasparyan has improved significantly since her clash with Serena at Wimbledon and will head into this match feeling far more confident and as though she belongs at this level. I think this will be Serena’s greatest test of the tournament thus far. Serena is likely to rise to the occasion and will probably give the Russian a tennis lesson. Gasparyan does have the firepower to remain competitive but is unlikely to win a set.