Williams stretched by McHale but wins again in Auckland

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©Chris Symes / www.photosport.nz Photosport Ltd 2020

Serena Williams of the U.S. reacts after winning a point during her second round singles match against compatriot Christina McHale at the ASB Classic tennis tournament in Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, Jan 9, 2020. (Chris Symes/Photosport via AP)

AUCKLAND – Top-seeded Serena Williams had her toughest workout of 2020 before beating fellow American Christina McHale 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals of the ASB Classic.

Williams dropped a set for the first time in singles or doubles this year and at times Thursday appeared to be fully stretched by the 88th-ranked McHale before finding the edge to win in just over two hours.

"It was a good match for me," Williams said. "I really need to play matches like that to get to my goal. Match time is good, but I'm just glad to still be out here after losing that first set."

Williams previously beat Camila Giorgi 6-3, 6-2 in singles and combined with Caroline Wozniacki in the doubles to beat Nao Hibino and Mikoto Ninomiya 6-2, 6-4 and then Caroline Dolehide and Johanna Larsson 6-2, 6-1 to reach the semifinals.

She was under pressure early against McHale, who had two service breaks to lead 4-1 in the first set before Williams broke back. McHale broke again to take the set 6-3 but Williams began the second set strongly, leading 5-1 before leveling the match.

If Williams thought the struggle was over she was mistaken. She broke twice to lead 5-2 in the third set but McHale broke back in the eighth game.

Williams finally managed to overpower McHale, converting the second of three break points in the final game.

Wozniacki also dropped a set to an American opponent before booking a quarterfinal match against defending champion Julia Goerges.