Australian Open 2015: Serena Williams gains revenge for French Open defeat by beating Garbine Muguruza to reach the quarter-finals

Williams will face Dominika Cibulkova after the Slovakian upset Victoria Azarenka

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The Independent Online

Eight months ago Serena Williams’ defeat to Garbine Muguruza at the French Open provided the American with the jolt that told her what she needed to do to remain on top of the world. Williams will be hoping that today’s hard-fought victory over the 21-year-old Spaniard here at the Australian Open can be a launchpad towards her first Melbourne title for five years.

Williams’ 6-2, 6-2 defeat by Muguruza at Roland Garros last summer was her heaviest in 17 years of Grand Slam competition, but the world No 1 described it as “a good loss” because it opened her eyes to changes that she had to make. By the end of the year she had won the US Open and the WTA Finals and cemented her place at the top of the world rankings.

Muguruza threatened to inflict another defeat on the American when she won the first set in today’s fourth-round encounter, but Williams dug deep to turn the match around and win 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.

 

The match repeated a pattern in Williams’ matches this year. She has often looked lethargic, particularly in the opening stages, and on this occasion she was not helped by a cough which has been troubling her for the last two days.

Muguruza, the world No 24, matched Williams shot for shot in some of the baseline rallies but after the first set the American’s serve became an increasingly decisive factor.

“She made me play a lot better,” Williams said afterwards. “I had to play the best match of the tournament or else I was going to be out. I think she was just hitting winners left and right. Every shot I hit, she basically hit a winner on. So I had to change my approach. I was hitting a little bit too much to her.”

Williams added: “I've been playing for a long time. When I have to go up a level, I have to. I can't afford to stay at the same level or I will be where I was at the French Open. I definitely didn't want to be there without at least trying to give one thousand per cent.”

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Serena Williams recovered from a set down to beat Garbine Muguruza

In the quarter-finals Williams will play Dominika Cibulkova, who clearly loves playing here. The 25-year-old Slovakian has not had the best of years since reaching the final here 12 months ago, but rediscovered some of her best tennis to beat Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

Azarenka, the 2012 and 2013 champion, missed most of 2014 through injury but had played well in her first three matches here last week, with Caroline Wozniacki among her victims.

Playing under a closed roof following morning rain, Cibulkova hit the ball beautifully. The world No 10 cracked 44 winners and broke Azarenka’s serve seven times. “I just walked on to the court and all great memories came to my mind,” Cibulkova said. “I thought: ‘I’m a great player and I can do it’.”

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Victoria Azarenka was knocked out by Dominika Cibulkova

Azarenka, who was unseeded, won the first two games before Cibulkova won six in a row to take the opening set. Azarenka responded well to take the second set and was matching Cibulkova until the Slovakian broke serve in the seventh game. Another break two games later gave Cibulkova the match.

Cibulkova stands just 5ft 3in tall and was dwarfed by the 6ft-tall Azarenka, but she packs a powerful punch. “As you can see, I'm not the tallest player on tour,” Cibulkova said. “I need to have something extra if I want to beat these top players. This is my energy on the court, this is how I play.”

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Dominika Cibulkova shocked Victoria Azarenka to reach the quarter-finals

Madison Keys will play in her first Grand Slam quarter-final after a 6-2, 6-4 victory over her fellow American and namesake, Madison Brengle. Keys, aged 19, beat the Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova, in her previous match and her big hitting was too much for Brengle. Keys hit a total of 38 winners.

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