MELBOURNE, Australia - Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal both battled into the second week of the Australian Open on Saturday, though one of the legends had it far simpler than the other.
Williams was the first of the two to take Rod Laver Arena and she had few problems with 23-year-old former college tennis star Nicole Gibbs, cruising past her fellow American in 63 minutes, 6-1 6-3.
The World No.2 lost serve while serving for it at 6-1 5-2 but broke one last time to close it out.
“I feel like I have been able to do pretty good,” Williams said of her run so far. “I have been doing the things I have been doing in practice, and hopefully I can build up on this. That’s all I want to do.”
It was a special day for the 22-time Grand Slam champion - it was the 19-year anniversary of her first career meeting against Venus Williams, losing to her big sister in the second round here in 1998.
“Yeah, I remember the draw came out, and I had to play her in the second round. I remember, I think, we had a tough first set, and then she really went through the second. Then she went on, I think, to the quarterfinals. She had a really good tournament that year. It was a great time. We really had so much fun playing. It was - it’s really exciting, looking back, and looking back at those moments.
“You don’t really get those moments back, but you can remember them so well. It’s so fun.”
There were tighter matches for some of the other favorites on the women’s side, with No.6 seed Dominika Cibulkova clawing out of a 6-2 4-0 hole but eventually going down to No.30 seed Ekaterina Makarova in three, 6-2 6-7(3) 6-3, and No.5 seed Karolina Pliskova battling back from the brink of defeat - she was down 5-2 third set - to sneak past Latvian teenager Jelena Ostapenko, 4-6 6-0 10-8.
Other winners included No.9 seed Johanna Konta, who overpowered No.17 seed Caroline Wozniacki, 6-3 6-1, and Jennifer Brady, who upset No.14 seed Elena Vesnina, 7-6(4) 6-2, to become the first American woman to come through qualifying and go all the way to the fourth round here.
Nadal, the No.9 seed on the men’s side, had to battle back from two sets to one down to overcome inspired No.24 seed Alexander Zverev after four hours and six minutes, 4-6 6-3 6-7(5) 6-3 6-2.It was his first five set win at a major since beating Tim Smyczek in the second round here in 2015.
“It’s obviously an important result for me,” Nadal declared. “I lost the last couple of ones, matches in the fifth. So it’s important for me to win a match like this, losing two sets to one… I’m very happy.
“He’s a player that has an amazing potential. He can produce great shots. He’s already one of the best players of the world. He can be even better. He can be fighting for the most important things.”
Awaiting Nadal in the round of 16 is No.6 seed Gael Monfils, who defeated No.32 seed Philipp Kohlschreiber in a night match, 6-3 7-6(1) 6-4. “He’s No.6 in the world, no? He’s playing great,” Nadal said of the charismatic Frenchman. “He had an amazing year last year. He started the season again playing very well. It’s going to be a big, big match. Very tough one. I need to play my best.”
Other winners on the men’s side included No.3 seed Milos Raonic and No.8 seed Dominic Thiem.