Serena Williams reaches Auckland quarters in Australian Open tune-up

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.

Serena Williams in action at the WTA Auckland Classic.   -  Getty Images

Serena Williams rallied from a set down to beat journeywoman Christina McHale at the WTA Auckland Classic on Thursday, 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's US Open final.

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

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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.

Muguruza advances to semis

Two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza stepped up her Australian Open preparations by battling into the semifinals of the Shenzhen Open on Thursday.

Spain's former world number one defeated Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 to reach her first semifinal since winning the title in Monterrey, Mexico in April last year.

The 26-year-old Muguruza, now ranked 35 in the world, faces China's Wang Qiang or Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia in the last four in southern China.