Serena Williams powers towards grand slam record after racing into Australian Open quarter-finals
American remains on course to beat Steffi Graf’s Open-era mark as the 35-year-old also closes in on a return to the world number one ranking
Serena Williams kept up her pursuit of a record grand slam title and a return to world number one on Monday as she reached the Australian Open quarter-finals without dropping a set.
A day after defending champion and top seed Angelique Kerber fell by the wayside, Williams overcame Barbora Strycova 7-5, 6-4 to set up a last-eight clash with Great Britain’s Johanna Konta.
The American great would gain much from winning in Melbourne as she would overtake Steffi Graf’s Open-era record of 22 grand slam titles and end Kerber’s short reign as world number one.
In hot conditions, she fought off the tenacious Strycova in two tight sets, following her sister Venus into the quarter-finals and staying on track for a possible all-Williams final.
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“I have absolutely nothing to lose in this tournament,” said Williams, 35. “Everything here is a bonus for me. Obviously I’m here to win. Hopefully I can play better, I can only go better.”
Konta, the ninth seed, also reached the last eight with a perfect record in sets after a convincing 6-1, 6-4 victory over Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova.
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Despite the task facing her, Konta was delighted to be playing Williams, a childhood idol, for what would be her second straight Australian Open semi-final.
“I’m really looking forward to the challenge, and I’m looking forward to being on court, out on court with her and competing against her,” Konta said.
Meanwhile Mirjana Lucic-Baroni wrote another chapter in her fairytale career revival when she beat American qualifier Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-2 to reach her first grand slam quarter-final in 18 years.
The former teen prodigy, now 34, won the 1998 Australian Open women’s doubles with Martina Hingis but she fled her abusive father and suffered a series of injuries to put her career on hold.
Her joy was unbridled at beating Brady as she reached the last eight at a major for the first time since 1999, when she lost to Graf at Wimbledon aged 17.
“I hope no one is going to pinch me and wake me up because this is just incredible,” said Lucic-Baroni, who screeched with joy and jumped up and down to celebrate the win.
“I am a tough little cookie and really stubborn, when I want something I will work hard and do anything I need to get it. What a satisfaction.”