Melbourne - 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 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.
"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
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,"
said the 25-year-old.
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
Lucic-Baroni will play her quarter-final against US Open finalist
Karolina Pliskova, who ended home hopes with a 6-3, 6-3 win over
Australia's Daria Gavrilova.
In the men's draw, David Goffin put away Austria's Dominic Thiem 5-7,
7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 6-2 to become the first Belgian man ever to reach the
Goffin's win in the second-set tiebreaker proved crucial as he
powered on to victory on Rod Laver Arena, where ambient temperatures
were above 35 degrees Celsius.
Goffin will play next Grigor Dimitrov, who halted the fairytale run
of Denis Istomin, the 117th-ranked Uzbek wildcard who shocked defending
champion Novak Djokovic in round two.
Glasses-wearing Istomin won the first set but injury problems set in
and he went down 2-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-2, 6-1 to the in-form Bulgarian.
Results from the Australian Open on Monday (x denotes seeding):
David Goffin (BEL x11) bt Dominic Thiem (AUT x8) 5-7, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 6-2
Grigor Dimitrov (BUL x15) bt Denis Istomin (UZB) 2-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-2, 6-1
Johanna Konta (GBR x9) bt Ekaterina Makarova (RUS x30) 6-1, 6-4
Serena Williams (USA x2) bt Barbora Strycova (CZE x16) 7-5, 6-4
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO) bt Jennifer Brady (USA) 6-4, 6-2
Karolina Pliskova (CZE x5) bt Daria Gavrilova (AUS x22) 6-3, 6-3