Serena drops set before reaching Auckland quarters

AUCKLAND (AFP) – Serena Williams rallied from a set down to beat journeywoman Christina McHale at the WTA Auckland Classic yesterday, but said it was just the workout she needed.

With her focus on winning a 24th Grand Slam at the Australian Open, Williams said she needs all the court time she can get after a long off-season since losing September 2019’s United States (US) Open final.

It took the top seed two hours to put away the 27-year-old McHale and advance to a quarter-final with Germany’s Laura Siegemund, who ousted teen prodigy Coco Gauff in the second round.

Williams was broken three times before losing the first set 3-6 but recovered to take the next two sets 6-2, 6-3 in the all-American affair.

“I really need to play matches like that to get to my goals,” said the 23-times Grand Slam winner, who is determined to equal the record of 24 held by Australian great Margaret Court.

“Tournament time is super-important, match time is good. After losing that first set I’m just glad to be still in the event.”

McHale used her speed around the court in extended rallies which often produced unforced errors from the 38-year-old Williams in the early stages.

But just as it looked as if Williams was in a slump at 1-4 down after five games, the world number 10 got to grips with the blustery conditions and McHale’s agility and began to take control.