Russian teen tennis queen Anastasia Potapova will face a baptism of fire in her first ever Grand Slam 3rd round appearance as she takes on 23-time major champion Serena Williams at the Australian Open on Friday.
Nineteen-year-old Potapova bested Hungarian Tímea Babos 6-2, 6-4 in the tournament second round in Melbourne on Wednesday to set up a tie against tenth seed Williams.
The two will now meet in a repeat of their meeting in the first round of the same Grand Slam last year, something Potapova admitted was a “great experience”.
“Last year I gained huge experience. It was hard for me in that match – it’s always difficult to play with someone for the first time. Especially with her,”Potapova said.
“Now I’m different, more mature. I think it will be a great game, and I will do everything possible to win and show my best tennis.
“For me, [Serena] is the greatest tennis player of all time. I can’t wait for this game.”
Potapova, who was born in the Russian city of Saratov on the Volga River, and who resides in Khimki, just outside Moscow, had already beaten a seeded player to get to that match, having dominated Alison Riske in straight stets 6-1, 6-2 in the first round.
While still in the embryonic stages of her senior career, Potapova is looking to carry her junior success through to the big stage; a former world junior number one, she is also the 2016 junior Wimbledon girls’ singles champion.
To become champion that 2016 Wimbledon junior final, Potapova beat Dayana Yastremska, who by coincidence first became known on the major stage also after facing Serena in the Australian Open third round, where a tearful Ukrainian was consoled by the American following a spirited loss.
Serena, still hunting for that record-equalling 24th Grand Slam at age 39, reached the third round after sailing past Serbian Nina Stojanovic 6-3, 6-0.