Serena ousts No. 1 Halep to reach Aussie quarters

Seeking her record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title, Serena Williams reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open on Monday with a 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 victory over No. 1-ranked Simona Halep in Melbourne.

“It was really a intense match, some incredible points,” Williams said during an on-court interview after improving to 9-1 against the top-seeded Romanian. “I really needed to elevate my game. She is the No. 1 player in the world, and there’s a reason.”

Williams, 37, breezed through the opening set in 20 minutes, but Halep fought back from an early break to take the second set before a packed house of 15,000 at Rod Laver Arena. That snapped Williams’ 21-set winning streak at the Australian Open, where the 16th-seeded “underdog” has won seven times.

“In order for me to stay out there, I had to play a little like I knew I could,” said Williams, who saved three break points to hold at 3-3 in the deciding set. “I’m such a fighter. I just never give up. It’s definitely something that’s innate. I just work so hard for every point.”

Williams, who can tie Australian Margaret Court’s record with a 24th title this week, will face seventh-seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals. Pliskova made only three unforced errors in a 6-3, 6-1 victory against Spain’s Garbine Muguruza.

“I’m feeling great. I always feel good energy here,” said Pliskova, who is 1-2 in her career against Williams. “I feel like these conditions can be good for me.”

Svitolina, Osaka advance

Other Round of 16 winners Monday were sixth-seeded Ukrainian Elina Svitolina and reigning U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka of Japan.

“I was happy I could handle the pressure at 1-1 in the third set,” said Svitolina, who fought off five break points in that pivotal game and then rolled to a 6-2, 1-6, 6-1 win against American Madison Keys.

“It was very hard because the sun was just burning my eyes when I was tossing the ball,” Svitolina said. “Very happy I could win that game.”

The fourth-seeded Osaka had to work nearly two hours to get past Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 decision.

Svitolina holds a 3-2 edge in head-to-head meetings with Osaka.

–Field Level Media

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