MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Serena Williams ended world number one Simona Halep’s run at the Australian Open on Monday, surviving a second set fightback from the Romanian to keep alive her hopes of winning a first Grand Slam since becoming a mother.
Williams’ 6-1 4-6 6-4 victory set up a quarter-final meeting with big-serving Czech seventh seed Karolina Pliskova and kept the 37-year-old on track to equal Australian Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles.
“She’s always someone that comes out and serves big and plays well,” Williams said of her next opponent. “I’ve got to return a little bit better the next day that we play, but I will be ready. She’s ready, I’m ready, and let’s do it.”
Japanese fourth seed Naomi Osaka, one of four players who could oust Halep as world number one at the end of the tournament, ground out a 4-6 6-3 6-4 victory over U.S. Open semi-finalist Anastasija Sevastova.
Tempers frayed in the men’s draw, with fourth seed Alexander Zverev smashing his racket and Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta flinging his kit bag across the court in frustration as they both bowed out in contrasting fashion.
Zverev was beaten by clinical Canadian Milos Raonic in straight sets while Carreno Busta went down fighting 6-7(8) 4-6 7-6(4) 6-4 7-6(8) in a five-hour marathon against Japanese battler Kei Nishikori.
World number one Novak Djokovic outclassed young Russian Daniil Medvedev in four sets in the day’s last match to set up a quarter-final clash with the Japanese.
Highlights of Monday’s eighth day of the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam tournament of the year (all times GMT):
Top seed Novak Djokovic wore down Russia’s Daniil Medvedev 6-4 6-7(5) 6-2 6-3 to reach his first Australian Open quarter-final since winning the title in 2016.
The Serb converted seven of the 18 break points he carved out against the big-serving Medvedev and struck 43 winners to the Russian’s 38 as he wrapped up victory in three hours, 15 minutes in the day’s final match.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori was dragged into a five-set battle for the third time in four matches but rallied from two sets down to beat Pablo Carreno Busta 6-7(8) 4-6 7-6(4) 6-4 7-6(8) in a little over five hours and book his place in the quarter-finals.
Serena Williams took another major step closer to a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam with a 6-1 4-6 6-4 victory over world number one Simona Halep in the fourth round.
Seven-times Australian Open champion Williams needed only 20 minutes to claim the opening set before the determined Halep dragged the contest into a decider.
However, Williams was not to be denied as she clinched the third set in style to set up a quarter-final meeting with Czech Karolina Pliskova.
France’s Lucas Pouille overcame a slow start to beat 11th seed Borna Coric 6-7(4) 6-4 7-5 7-6(2) and reach the last eight of a Grand Slam for the first time since back-to-back quarter-final appearances at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2016.
Karolina Pliskova defeated fellow former world number one Garbine Muguruza 6-3 6-1, the Czech seventh seed prevailing in one hour.
Fourth seed Alexander Zverev was knocked out of the fourth round by Canadian Milos Raonic, who sealed a 6-1 6-1 7-6(5) win in just under two hours.
A frustrated Zverev smashed his racquet at one point but managed to save two match points in the third set before Raonic clinched the victory in a tiebreak.
Naomi Osaka dropped the opening set before coming back to defeat Latvian Anastasija Sevastova 4-6 6-3 6-4 and reach the Australian Open quarter-finals for the first time.
After losing the first set tamely, Osaka earned a decisive break to go up 4-2 in the second set before levelling the match. The world number four endured some nervy moments in the decider before sealing the contest in one hour and 47 minutes.
Up next for Osaka is WTA Finals champion Elina Svitolina. The Japanese has lost three of their five career meetings, including their most recent clash at Miami last year.
0153 SVITOLINA INTO QUARTER-FINALS
Sixth seed Elina Svitolina overcame a mid-match blip to beat American Madison Keys 6-2 1-6 6-1 on Monday.
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar and Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by John O'Brien and Ed Osmond