Tennis

Williams defeats world No. 1 Halep; Pliskova routs Muguruza

Serena Williams subdued a stubborn fightback from world No. 1 Simona Halep to take her quest for a record-equalling 24th Major into the Australian Open quarter-finals yesterday.

The 37-year-old American beat the Romanian top seed 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in an epic three-setter which lasted an hour and 47 minutes.

It was Williams' first match against a world No. 1 since returning after having a baby in September 2017.

"It was an intense match and there were some incredible points," Williams said.

"She's the No. 1 player in the world and there's a reason why... (but) I'm such a fighter, I just never give up."

Williams won her 23rd Grand Slam Down Under two years ago, while two months' pregnant and is the bookies' favourite to claim an eighth Australian title, despite being seeded 16th.

Next up for Serena is seventh seed Karolina Pliskova, who thrashed double Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 6-1 to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals for the third year in succession.

The Czech broke former French Open and Wimbledon champion Muguruza five times in the one-sided clash, as she continues her bid for a maiden Grand Slam.

Pliskova has been one of a string of top women players in the past decade who have risen to the world No. 1 ranking, but failed to cement their spot with Grand Slam success.

"Of course I don't play the best tennis always in Grand Slams, but I have been doing a good job to go through some matches in the first weeks, which are always pretty tough because of this pressure," Pliskova said.

"It's not that I'm completely without stress. Everybody has it, but the pressure here is a bit bigger. As a seeded (player), I feel I should go far."

MAIDEN QUARTER-FINAL

Meanwhile, US Open champion Naomi Osaka booked her maiden Australian Open quarter-final spot with a grinding 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over 13th seed Anastasija Sevastova.

The Japanese will meet sixth seed Elina Svitolina, who beat American Madison Keys 6-2, 1-6, 6-1, in the next round.

"To reach the quarter-finals here, of course, I'm very happy," Osaka said.

"A little part of me is relieved, because I have never reached the quarter-finals of a tournament (at) a Grand Slam aside from New York. So, definitely, this was one of my goals."- AFP, REUTERS

Tennis