MELBOURNE: Serena Williams came through a huge test of her Australian Open title credentials to reach the last four at Melbourne Park for the ninth time with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Simona Halep in a high quality quarter-final on Tuesday.
The 39-year-old went toe-to-toe with the Romanian second seed over 80 minutes on Rod Laver Arena before she was finally able to move to within two victories of a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title.
Williams hit some ferocious forehands and moved around the court with a freedom that she has not enjoyed for a good while to set up a semi-final meeting against in-form Japanese third seed Naomi Osaka.
"I think this was the best match I have played at this tournament for sure," Williams said after celebrating her win to the accompaniment of canned applause as Melbourne's coronavirus lockdown kept the fans away for a fourth day.
"I knew it had to be going up against the number two in the world. I had to be better and I was, so I'm excited."
If any match at this year's tournament deserved a crowd, it was this. There were nine breaks of serve as two great competitors punched and counter-punched over lengthy rallies.
Williams was always in front in the first set but needed to dig deep to wrestle back the momentum after Halep took a 3-1 lead in the second.
Eventually, however, Williams broke for 4-3 after a 13-shot rally where she showed incredible athleticism to get to a couple of shots that would have defied most players.
Seven minutes later, she wrapped up the contest with a huge forehand, her 24th winner.
Williams has not landed one of the game's major prizes since her seventh title at Melbourne Park in 2017, with Halep's victory in the 2019 Wimbledon final denying her one opportunity to match Margaret Court's record.
After gaining a measure of revenge for that defeat, Williams has the chance to avenge another when she plays Osaka, who won the 2018 US Open final between the two.
Qualifier Karatsev stuns Dimitrov to enter semis
AslanKaratsev continued his sensational run at the Australian Open into the semi-finals when he stunned GrigorDimitrov 2-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 to become the fifth qualifier to reach the last four of a men's Grand Slam in the open era.
The world number 114 regrouped after an error-filled opening set to add the 18th seed to his list of upset victims at Melbourne Park and set up a clash with Novak Djokovic or Alexander Zverev for a place in the final.
Dimitrov looked shell-shocked as the Russian tightened up his game and pounded howitzer shots over the net — faltering on serve and wandering around the Rod Laver Arena court listlessly in the 30 degree Celsius heat.
The 29-year-old Bulgarian took a medical time-out for treatment on his back after losing the third set but Karatsev would not be denied as he became the lowest-ranked player to reach a Grand Slam semi-final for two decades.
Osaka thrashes Hsieh
The brute force of Naomi Osaka crushed the artistry of Hsieh Su-wei as the Japanese former champion charged into the Australian Open semi-finals with a 6-2, 6-2 win.
On a warm and muggy day at Rod Laver Arena, Osaka attacked Hsieh's weak serve with gusto and the Taiwanese giantkiller quickly wilted under the pressure of her Grand Slam quarter-final debut.
Osaka had a torrid time in her last Australian Open clash against Hsieh in 2019, needing to come back from a set and a break down on the way to claiming the championship.
So the Japanese third seed was thrilled with her form against the Taiwanese maverick in a 66-minute clinic.
Osaka's reward will be a semi-final against either Serena Williams or SimonaHalep, the pair having a rematch of the 2019 Wimbledon final in the evening session at Rod Laver Arena.
Hsieh, 35, bowed out after a stellar tournament, having become the oldest women's player to debut in a Grand Slam quarter-final in the professional era. Agencies
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