Serena Williams ousts world number one Halep at Australian Open

American tennis star reaches quarterfinals, staying on course for her 24th major title at year's opening Grand Slam.

    Serena Williams ousts world number one Halep at Australian Open
    Williams improved to 9-1 against Halep and now meets Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals [Lucy Nicholson/Reuters]

    American tennis star Serena Williams has knocked out world number one Simona Halep to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, staying on course to equal Australian Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 Grand Slam wins. 

    The seven-time champion powered past her Romanian opponent in Melbourne on Monday night, sealing a hard-fought 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 fourth round victory in one hour and 47 minutes.

    "It was a really intense match and there were some incredible points but I love playing tennis... It's really cool to be back out and playing again on this court," Williams said in her courtside interview.

    "I really needed to elevate my game, she's the number one player in the world and there's a reason why," she added. 

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    With the win, Williams improved to 9-1 against the French Open champion and now meets 2016 US Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals.

    The 37-year-old American sat out last year's Australian Open after giving birth to a daughter months earlier and dealing with health complications.

    Since returning to the tour, Williams has reached the past two Grand Slam finals, losing both - and leaving her still one shy of equaling Court's record of 24 major singles titles.

    Halep lost the 2018 Australian Open final to Caroline Wozniacki [Lucy Nicholson/Reuters]

    Halep offered up the first real test Williams has faced at this year's Australian Open, where she is bidding for an eighth trophy, pushing her throughout a back-and-forth matchup that was a fascinating mix of power, court coverage and shotmaking.

    It wasn't until Williams saved three break points in a monumental game to hold for three-all in the third set that she gained control. She then broke for a 4-3 lead and wrapped up the match. 

    "In order for me to stay out there, I had to play a little like I knew I could," said Williams, who is seeded 16th on account of all the time she took away from tennis while becoming a mother.

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    "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."

    Czech seventh seed Pliskova advanced earlier on Monday with a 6-3, 6-1 thrashing victory over two-time major champion from Spain, Garbine Muguruza.

    The other quarterfinal on that side of the women's bracket features Japan's Naomi Osaka against world number six Elina Svitolina from Ukraine. 

    Osaka, who beat Williams in last year's US Open final, edged past 13th seed Anastasija Sevastova 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the fourth round, while Svitolina got past 2017 US Open finalist Madison Keys 6-2, 1-6, 6-1.

    The Australian Open is the year's first Grand Slam championship - the most important tennis events held annually. 

    SOURCE: News agencies