The 10th seed’s quest for a 24th grand slam title continued as she got past teenager Anastasia Potapova 7-6 (5) 6-2 in a third-round match that was harder than the scoreline suggests.
The 39-year-old is in the last 16 for the 16th time at this tournament, but her tie with Aryna Sabalenka will be in front on an empty stadium after the Victorian government imposed a five-day lockdown.
The players will revert to a tournament bubble – as they did for the latter part of 2020 – which means they cannot leave their hotel or the tournament grounds, something Williams says is no different to usual.
“It’s rough. It’s going to be a rough few days for I think everyone,” Williams said of the new restrictions. “But we’ll hopefully get through it.
“It’s not ideal. It’s been really fun to have the crowd back, especially here. It’s been really cool.
“But at the end of the day we have to do what’s best. Hopefully it will be all right.
“I think basically we just go to the tennis, to the hotel. I’m not sure. I would imagine that would be it. I’ve been doing that for 20 years, so I think I’ve been pretty much quarantining for my whole career.”
Third seed and 2019 champion Naomi Osaka could be Williams’ biggest threat to the title as the Japanese is looking in ominous form.
Osaka overcame a tough start against tricky opponent Ons Jabeur to win 6-3 6-2 to extend a lengthy unbeaten run.
The 23-year-old has not been beaten on court since a Fed Cup match in Spain last February, with her only losses coming in matches where she gave her opponent a walkover beforehand.
Osaka will now meet last year’s runner-up Garbine Muguruza, who barely broke a sweat in beating Zarina Diyas 6-1 6-1.
Muguruza said: “I don’t think we’ve played each other before. I’m just looking forward for a fourth round, a good fourth round, playing the top players.
“I feel like that’s always the right way, you know, a good sign. Just expecting a good match.
“I am just happy with, of course, being in the second week of a Grand Slam. It shows that my game is there.”
Seventh seed Sabalenka is in the fourth round of a grand slam for just the second time after overpowering Ann Li 6-3 6-1 while Marketa Vondrousova was too good for Sorana Cirstea in a 6-2 6-4 win.
Hsieh Su-wei matched her best ever run at a grand slam as she beat Sara Errani in three sets.