Melbourne Park—Serena Williams at 39 is playing her best tennis, she just overpowered Tsvetana Pironkova 6-1, 6-4 in 74 minutes at the Yarra Valley Classic.
The 23-time Grand Slam winner beat the Bulgarian in straight sets and coast through to the last eight.
Williams will face 13th-seeded fellow American Danielle Collins following her 7-6 (5) 7-6 (3) defeat of third seed Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals.
“So far, so good. It’s special to play here with what’s going on in the world,” said Williams, who only lost four games against Daria Gavrilova in her opener on Monday.
Serena is on quest for her 24th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, broke Pironkova first up and kept the pressure on with 25 winners and six aces.
“It’s definitely nice to get another win,” said Williams, who will next week begin her bid to win an eighth Australian Open title.
“She’s clearly a great player, so it wasn’t easy, but it was good to come through.
“Last time we played, it was an incredible three-set match. So today I was like, all right, let’s really try and focus and learn to do better than last time.”
No 3 Naomi Osaka and top-ranked Ashleigh Barty struggled through their matches.
Both were pushed to the limit, but both avoided early exits at the Classic.
Osaka was pushed hard by Katie Boulter, but regained her composure and came back for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory to reach the quarter-finals in the Gippsland Trophy.
The second-seeded Osaka, who won the Australian Open in 2019, raced to a 3-0 lead in the second set but the 24-year-old Briton would not fold and had Naomi on the ropes.
“Today was really tough for me. It just felt like a new experience playing here again after such a long while,” Osaka said.
British world number 371 Boulter, who knocked out teenage phenom Coco Gauff Tuesday, ran her over the court to claim the first set in 39 minutes.
World No 1 Barty also had a scare in her match against Marie Bouzkova, but recovered from a second-set stupor for a win 6-0, 4-6, 6-3.
Barty, hoping to break her country’s 43-year singles title drought at the Australian Open starting next week, will play Shelby Rogers of the United States next round.
“Mid-match I lacked execution but happy to get it on my terms in the end,” Barty said after a quick turnaround, having beaten Ana Bogdan in straight sets on Tuesday night.”
Top seed and world No 2 Simona Halep beat Laura Siegemund in straight sets to set up a quarter-final against Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova, who upset French Open champion Iga Swiatek 6-4, 6-2.
“I’m really happy with both matches, so it’s good to be back,” said Halep.
World number five Elina Svitolina also had to come from behind to beat 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-7 (7/4), 6-3, 6-2.
Svitolina will face 20th-ranked Belgium’s Elise Mertens, who got passed Caroline Garcia of France 7-6 (7/1), 6-3.