Serena crushes Halep to stay on track at Aussie Open

Serena Williams of the US hits a return against Romania's Simona Halep in Melbourne yesterday.
Serena Williams of the US hits a return against Romania's Simona Halep in Melbourne yesterday.
Image: William West / AFP

World number one Simona Halep said it felt like a freight train hit her yesterday after Serena Williams steamed past the top seeded Romanian and into the Australian Open quarterfinals.

Halep mounted a gutsy fightback after weathering an early onslaught but Williams kept her quest for a record-equalling 24th major alive with a 6-1 4-6 6-4 win.

"I felt like I had been hit by the train in the first set, everything was too fast," Halep said.

After rampaging through the early rounds without dropping a set, the 37-year-old was at least forced to work for her victory by Halep, who on paper is the top-ranked player in the world.

"It was an intense match and there were some incredible points," Williams said.

"She's the number one player in the world and there's a reason why... [but] I'm such a fighter, I just never give up."

Williams won her 23rd Grand Slam Down Under two years ago while two months pregnant and is the bookies' favourite to claim an eighth Australian title, despite being seeded 16th.

Another major would match Margaret Court's tally and Williams, who will meet Czech eighth seed Karolina Pliskova next, has been on a mission at Melbourne Park this year.

French Open champion Halep was in danger of crumbling before she regrouped for a stirring comeback.

The pair brought out the best in each other's game, with Halep chasing down balls like a terrier and Williams blasting down aces and winners.

However, Williams said she had more in the tank and should have won the match in straight sets.

"I can definitely go to a new level. I have to if I want to stay in the tournament," she said.

There was a minor wobble when Williams allowed Halep to bring up three break points in the opening game, conceding with a double fault.

But the American broke back in the next, racing to the net for an overhead smash when one of her powerfully hit returns flew high off Halep's racquet. She then ran away with the first set 6-1 in 20 minutes. 

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