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Serena beats Halep, Osaka to face Svitolina

Serena Williams of the United States celebrates after defeating Romania’s Simona Halep in their fourth round match at the Australian Open in Melbourne, on Monday. – AP/PTI
 MELBOURNE, Jan 21: A fired-up Serena Williams slugged past World No. 1 Simona Halep on Monday as she inches closer to a 24th Grand Slam title while Japanese US Open champion Naomi Osaka made her way into an Australian Open quarterfinal with sixth seed Elina Svitolina.

In a towering performance, the American great scored her biggest win since giving birth to break down the Romanian top seed 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 and move into a quarterfinal against seventh seed Karolina Pliskova.

Czech Pliskova is another in-form player, winning the warm-up Brisbane International and easing past two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 6-1 to set up the Williams clash.

“I’m such a fighter, I never give up,” declared Williams after the epic encounter.

“It was an intense match and there were some incredible points but I love playing tennis and being out here and I love this court, it’s really cool to be back.”

Women’s fourth seed Osaka was more composed as she beat crafty Latvian Anastasija Sevastova in three sets to set up a meeting with the ambitious Svitolina of Ukraine for a place in the semifinals.

But it was the dominant Williams who overshadowed them all and is the overwhelming favourite to win an eighth Australian title, with defending champion Caroline Wozniacki and second seed Angelique Kerber already out.

She has been in ominous form at Melbourne Park as she seeks one more major title to put her alongside Margaret Court’s record 24, and it looked like French Open champion Halep would be another easy scalp after a first set rout.

But the nuggety Romanian isn’t World No. 1 for nothing and she bounced back to set up a huge power struggle that Williams finally won with a break in the seventh game of the third set.

“I really needed to elevate my game. She’s a great player,” said Williams.

Fourth seed Osaka emerged from an error-strewn first set against Sevastova to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. – Agencies

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