The American contingent in Melbourne—which began with a tournament-high 26 combined men and women main-draw singles competitors—remains strong as the singles events progress to the Round of 16. Five Americans, including four U.S. women, are still in the hunt Down Under.
Serena Williams leads the way, as she continues her quest for Grand Slam singles title No. 24. She is joined in the women’s fourth round by Jennifer Brady, Shelby Rogers and Jessica Pegula, with all four women winning all six sets they’ve played on the way. Mackenzie McDonald is the last American man standing, making it two former UCLA Bruins in the last 16, alongside Brady.
Serena was tested by Russia’s Anastasia Potapova, but was able to shake off a slow start to advance, 7-6, 6-2, as she bids to match the all-time Grand Slam singles record. Seeded No. 10, she will face her first seeded opposition in the Round of 16, with a matchup against No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka set for Rod Laver Arena on what will be Saturday evening in the U.S. Sabalenka took out American Ann Li in Round 3.
“She hits very hard; she has a big, big power game,” Serena said of her next opponent. “She’s a big girl, strong like myself. So I think it will be a really good match.”
The No. 22-seeded Brady took out Slovenian qualifier Kaja Juvan, 6-1, 6-3, with the help of a nine-deuce, 17-minute hold to pull ahead, 5-3, in the second. Brady has dropped no more than four games in each of her opening three victories. She’ll face her toughest test yet, at least in terms of the WTA rankings, when she faces No. 28 seed Donna Vekic for a spot in the final eight. This is the 25-year-old’s second time in the Melbourne Round of 16, after she accomplished that feat as a qualifier in her 2017 debut. She’s now two wins from matching her run to the 2020 US Open semis, where she did not drop a set until her three-set defeat to eventual champ Naomi Osaka.
After Brady and Virginia product Danielle Collins flew the flag for college tennis in 2020, with deep runs at the US Open and French Open, respectively, McDonald and Brady now give UCLA double representation in the Round of 16.
“I was just texting with Mackie,” Brady said after her win. “I’m so proud of him, happy for him that he’s made the fourth round here. I think he’s also pretty excited for me, as well. It’s nice to have him out there doing well. It’s really good to see. He works really hard.