Melbourne - World
number one Simona Halep and the woman who topped the rankings a year ago,
Angelique Kerber, can set up a blockbuster showdown if they come through the
Australian Open quarter-finals on Wednesday.
Romania's Halep was too good for Japanese youngster Naomi
Osaka in a straight sets last 16 win.
But she has been nursing a painful ankle and an aching body
after enduring a 3hr 44min thriller to beat Lauren Davis 15-13 in the third set
in round three.
She faces a tough examination against former number one and
sixth seed Karolina Pliskova as both go in search of a first Grand Slam title.
"Pliskova is always dangerous. She's playing great
these days. I'm used to her," said Halep, who leads their head-to-head
The Romanian beat the Czech in three sets in their only
Grand Slam encounter, on clay in the semi-final at Roland Garros last season.
"It is going to be a new match. You never know what's
going to happen," Halep said as she targets a maiden semi-final at
Melbourne Park, having fallen in the last eight in 2014 and 2015.
The 21st seed Kerber's clash against US Open finalist
Madison Keys looks to have the makings of a classic.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Kerber has yet to face a seed.
But her third-round annihilation of Maria Sharapova gave notice she is
approaching the form that swept her to the title two years, stunning Serena
Williams in the final.
The German is the only major winner left in the draw but
17th seed Keys has enjoyed an almost unnoticed, impressive run without dropping
The American, who is targeting a second semi-final at
Melbourne, took just 68 minutes to destroy eighth seed Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-2
in the last 16.
Meanwhile, super-fit Kerber was made to run all over the
court for three highly entertaining sets by the unorthodox variety of Taiwan's
Kerber acknowledged that facing Keys, who smashed 32 winners
and nine aces in beating Garcia, would be a whole new ball game.
"It's a completely different match. I know what to
expect. I know she's a hard hitter and has a great serve," said Kerber.
Keys said Kerber's ability to chase down lost causes would
present a new problem.
"I think she has an ability to cover the court and
anticipate like really no one else does," said the 22-year-old, who first
reached the semi-finals in Melbourne as a teenager in 2015.
"I know she's going to make three more balls than other
girls may be able to get to."
Pliskova has the least time to recover for her clash with
She took almost three hours to get past fellow Czech Barbora
Strycova in a last-16 match that did not finish until just before 02:00 on
But she said she would have a game plan for Halep.
"I think there is always chance to beat her. It's going
to be about me. If I don't play well I don't have the chance. I have to get my
mindset ready for this."