A fired-up Serena Williams slugged past world number one Simona Halep Monday as she inches ever closer to a 24th Grand Slam title, while Novak Djokovic survived a battle to stay on course for a record seventh Australian Open crown.
In a towering performance, the American great scored her biggest win since having a baby to grind down the Romanian top seed 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 and move into a quarter-final against seventh seed Karolina Pliskova.
Czech Pliskova is another form player, winning the warm-up Brisbane International and easing past two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 6-1 to set up the Williams clash.
While Williams stayed calm, highly-rated German fourth seed Alexander Zverev lost the plot against Canadian Milos Raonic, crashing 6-1, 6-1, 7-6 (7/5) and demolishing a racquet in a massive meltdown.
And Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta also let the pressure get to him, ranting at the umpire after a disputed call when leading the final tiebreak 8-5 against Japan’s Kei Nishikori.
He failed to win another point and was booed as he stormed off Margaret Court Arena, angrily throwing his kit bag after losing a 5hr 5min marathon 6-7 (8/10), 4-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-4, 7-6 (10/8).
Nishikori will now play six-time champion Djokovic, who dropped a set for the second match in a row before seeing off 15th-seeded Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-3.
Dominant Williams overshadowed them all and is overwhelming favourite to win an eighth Australian title, with defending champion Caroline Wozniacki and second seed Angelique Kerber already out.
She has been in ominous form at Melbourne Park as she seeks one more major title to put her alongside Margaret Court’s record 24, and it looked like French Open champion Halep would be another easy scalp after a first set rout.
But the nuggety Romanian isn’t world number one for nothing and she bounced back to set up a huge power struggle that Williams finally won with a break in the seventh game of the third set.
Fourth seed Naomi Osaka, meanwhile, was composed as she beat crafty Latvian Anastasija Sevastova, emerging from an error-strewn first to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
She next faces ambitious sixth seed Elina Svitolina, who needed to dig deep to overcome 17th seeded Madison Keys 6-2, 1-6, 6-1.
Svitolina was a quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park last year and has set her sights high after her breakthrough in winning the WTA Finals Singapore, targeting a Grand Slam win and world number one.
Earlier on Rod Laver Arena, Zverev self-destructed to slump out at the hands of Raonic.
The German has routinely been anointed as the flag-bearer for the next generation, but again failed to live up to his reputation and has now missed out on making the last eight of a major 14 times in 15 attempts.
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