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We’re in for a blockbuster fourth round at the Australian Open with Aryna Sabalenka facing off against 23-time major champion Serena Williams.

We’re set for a blockbuster fourth round of matches at the 2021 Australian Open with Aryna Sabalenka set to go toe to toe with 23-time major champion Serena Williams.

Aryna Sabalenka has now gone 18 wins in 19 matches after she smashed her way past American Ann Li 6-3 6-1 to reach the Australian Open’s fourth round. 

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Sabalenka hit seven Aces and 28 winners to cruise into the next round where she’ll face off against 23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams. 

It was a great game, she’s young, but she’s playing well, so It was a great game,” said the Belarusian.

“I was just trying to stay focused and stay low and relaxed.”

“I really want to play well in the grand slams and go as far as I can, and sometimes staying in Melbourne park, I feel a little pressure, and I’m trying to suppress it and come out on the big stadiums and play my best and do my business and try to rest from all the atmosphere. But I enjoy it.”

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Sabalenka has reached the last 32 of a grand slam championship just once before at the 2018 US Open, where she was knocked out by Naomi Osaka who went on to win the title that year. 

She’ll now challenge for her first grand slam quarterfinals appearance against 23-time major champion Serena Williams. 

The first time [I saw Serena Williams play], I think… I was around 13 years old. I think I said, ‘I want to hit even stronger than her,” Sabalenka laughed

“I don’t know if it was, was it smart or not, but [at] that point, I was thinking like, ‘Wow, she’s really powerful. I want to be like powerful, too, and I want to dominate on the tour, the same like she does.‘” 

Characterised by her powerful and aggressive playing style, Sabalenka has been sweeping opponents aside on the WTA tour recently, winning a hat-trick of trophies in Abu Dhabi, Austria, and Ostrava Open.

“It’s a big challenge, but it’s a tough one,” she said speaking on her fourth-round match against Serena Williams. “But I’m going to do everything I can to prepare myself for that match, like mentally be ready to get this win.”

Meanwhile, Williams had to wrestle a win away from 19-year-old Anastasia Potapova, who tested the seven-time Australian Open champion. 

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Fending off an early advance from her Russian opponent, saving three break points in the second game of the match, Williams managed to hold off her opponent’s advances, despite being broken twice, to take the first set to a tiebreak. 

Using her power, Williams edged her opponent late in the tiebreak to claim the first set while moving up a gear to break her opponent three times in the second set to win the match 6(5)-7 2-6. 

It was good to get through that match. The first set was extremely tight. I was a little tight, but it worked out. I was able to play a little more free in the second set,” Williams said after the match. 

I just was not striking in that first set. I was making errors, I was slow,” 

“At one point, I just started playing defensive because it was the only thing I could do.”

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Uncharacteristically, Williams conceded 31 unforced errors against Potapova, and Sabalenka will certainly look to use her powerful return game to cause issues on the American’s second serve. 

She hits very hard. She has a big, big power game,” Williams spoke of Sabalenka.

“She’s a big girl. Strong like myself. I think it will be a really good match.”

The pair have never met before, but with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line, it’s safe to say this is going to be a huge clash, with both players looking to use their power to outgun the other this Sunday. 

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