British number one Johanna Konta edged closer towards a first grand slam title, as she eased past Ekaterina Makarova to set up a tough quarter-final against Serena Williams.
Konta won the warm-up Sydney International last week and a comfortable 6-1 6-4 win over the 30th seed made it nine wins in a row for the 25-year-old, who has yet to drop a set in Melbourne.
The ninth seed raced through the first set in just 24 minutes winning 78% of her points on serve, as her Russian opponent struggled to cope against Konta’s aggressive returns.
Konta suffered a slight blip in the second which allowed Makarova build a 4-1 lead but the Briton came roaring back winning the next five consecutive games, closing out the match with two superb aces before Makarova sent a forehand sailing over the baseline.
Ninth seed Konta reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open last year but to repeat that feat, she must topple 22-time grand slam champion Serena Williams, who needed to dig deep to beat Barbora Strycova.
The six-time Australian Open champion was not at her best, but she managed to do enough to beat her feisty Czech opponent 7-5 6-4 to stay on course for a record 23rd grand slam title.
35-year-old Williams and the 16th seed traded seven break points in the first set with Williams scoring the crucial point with a backhand looping over the net, bouncing twice before Strycova could reach it.
Williams served for the match at 5-3 in the second set, only for the Czech player to break back on Williams’ 45th unforced error, but Williams did not spurn her second chance as she sealed her progress when Strycova sent a half-volley into the net.
Karolina Pliskova reached the Australian Open quarter-finals for the first time, as she kept her hopes of a first major title alive with a comfortable win over Australia’s own Daria Gavrilova.
The Czech looks to go one better than the US Open when she fell to defeat against Angelique Kerber in the final and she cruised into the quarter-finals with a 6-3 6-3 win over 22nd Gavrilova, to end Australian interest in the competition.
World number 79 Mirjana Lucic-Baroni ended an 18 year wait to reach a grand slam quarter-final, with the 34-year-old beating American qualifier Jennifer Brady 6-4 6-2 to reach the last eight in Melbourne.
It is the first time that the Croatian has reached the quarter-finals of a grand slam since reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon in 1999 and will now face fifth seed Pliskova for a place in the final four.
In men’s action, Rafael Nadal reached his first grand slam quarter-final in two years, as the Spaniard held off a comeback by Gaels Monfils to remain on course for a second Australian Open title.
Chasing his 14th grand slam title, Nadal cruised through the opening two sets before the Frenchman began to make a more aggressive approach and it paid off as he won the third set with a powerful ace and a forehand winner.
Monfils looked poised to force the game into a fifth set with an early break point in the fourth set, ending a 32-stroke rally with a forehand passing shot to take a 3-2 lead.
However, 2009 champion Nadal broke back at 4-4 and after three forehand errors and a double fault by Monfils and in the final game, Nadal scored another break point to seal a hard-fought 6-3 6-3 4-6 6-4 victory.
Third seed Milos Raonic is next up for Nadal, as the Canadian also overcame a tough last 16 tie against Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut to keep his dreams of a first grand slam title alive.
It was not the greatest performance from Raonic who had to fight back from 5-1 down int he first set to take the first set on a tie-breaker, but Bautista Agut broke him twice in the second set to level the match up.
A single break point in the third allowed Raonic to re-take the lead as his Spanish opponent needed the trainer for a leg problem and the Canadian raced through the fourth set to seal a hard-fought 7-6 (8/6) 3-6 6-4 6-1 win with a forehand winner down the line.
Denis Istomin‘s dream run came to an end, as Bulgaria’s Grigor Dmitrov came from a set behind to beat the world number 117 to reach his first grand slam quarter-final in over two years.
Istomin, who pulled off a huge upset against last year’s champion Novak Djokovic in the second round, started well by winning the first set but after picking up a thigh injury, the 15th seed began to take advantage of the Uzbek’s struggles.
The Bulgarian levelled the match up by claiming the second set on a tie-breaker, before he raced through the final two sets to end Istomin’s dream run with a 2-6 7-6 (7/2) 6-2 6-1 victory.
Dmitrov now faces Belgium’s David Goffin in the quarter-finals on Wednesday, with the 11th also seed having to come from behind to see off the challenge of Austrian Dominic Thiem
Goffin won a second set tie-break to level the match up after the eight seed won the first set with a single break point, before the Belgian cruised through the next two sets to win 5-7 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 6-2.