The second-seeded American Serena Williams' quest for an Open Era record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam singles title continues. The six-time Australian Open champion will be hoping to get the job done this time in Melbourne as she fell short at Flushing Meadows, suffering a heartbreaking semifinal defeat for the second year running, at the hands of Karolina Pliskova. Nevertheless, the world number one and defending champion Angelique Kerber's fourth round exit at the hands of compatriot Coco Vandeweghe has left the American in the driving seat to regain the world number one ranking, should she win the Australian Open title on Saturday.
Before Williams can think about a potential all-Williams final with sister Venus Williams, who's competing in the semi-finals in Melbourne for the first time since 2003. She will be up against ninth seed Johanna Konta, who upset her sister in the first round last year en route to her run to the semifinals. Britain's number one has been playing scintillating tennis and she is currently on a nine-match winning streak since winning the title in Sydney without dropping a set in the process. Konta's new partnership with Wim Fissette has been successful thus far, and the Belgian has the belief that Konta can win a Slam. Fisette was the former coach of Williams' adversary, Kim Clijsters, and the Brit will be a sponge to Fissette, absorbing all of the knowledge he knows on how to defeat Williams.
Williams' route to the quarterfinals
The American played her first competitive tennis match in almost four months at the ASB Classic in Auckland. Williams was understandably rusty which is why she lost to compatriot Madison Brengle in windy conditions. Nevertheless, the American quickly moved on from that disappointment and she had to navigate through a tough draw in Melbourne.
The former world number one began her Australian Open campaign against former world number seven Belinda Bencic. Williams played sublime tennis defeating the 19-year-old, 6-4, 6-3, and in the second round, she had another tricky second round match with Lucie Safarova. The American defeated the former world number five in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4. Williams demolished her compatriot Nicole Gibbs, 6-1, 6-3 to reach the fourth round. In the fourth round, Williams had a tricky match with 16th seed Barbora Strycova but came through it 7-5, 6-4. Williams' forehands were giving her problems, and she would have gone back out on the practice court to make sure they are firing against Konta. The 22-time Slam champion will be competing in her 47th Slam quarterfinal, the 11th in Melbourne.
Konta's route to the quarterfinals
The duo was placed in the bottom half of the draw which was arguably tougher than the top half of the draw. Nonetheless, Konta defeated Kirsten Flipkens, the 2013 Wimbledon semifinalist in straight sets, and Naomi Osaka, 6-4, 6-2 in the second round. The Brit displayed one of her best performances to date against former world number one and 17th seed Caroline Wozniacki. She demolished the Dane, 6-3, 6-1, and for the second-consecutive year, she was up against 30th seed Ekaterina Makarova. The Russian lefty loves the hard courts in Melbourne, reaching the second week for the seventh consecutive year. There was no drama this year as Konta dispatched Makarova, 6-1, 6-4, despite trailing 1-4 in the second set.
Who reaches the semifinals?
Williams admits that she's been studying Konta's game with her coach Patrick Mouratoglou, as she sees the Brit as a threat on the other side of the net. Moreover, the American will have to serve well in this match and her returns will have to be exceptional. This will be the first meeting between the duo, therefore, Williams will be having a good look at Konta in a few games to settle into this match. Coming to the net to finish off points will also be another strength of Williams' as Konta has the ability to go toe-to-toe with the second seed in extended rallies.
The ninth seed's backhand is a dangerous weapon, and she will have the tools to punish the American if she is off her game. Konta's got a good serve like Williams, and she will need to get plenty of first serves in and a few cheap points like aces to disrupt Williams, also the Brit can exploit a few weaknesses of the second seed and she can play some slices which Strycova did to unsettle the 35-year-old.
This will be the second match scheduled in the Rod Laver Arena following the first quarterfinal between fifth seed Karolina Pliskova and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. Expect this contest to feature plenty of hard-hitting but the experience of Williams will just be enough to see her over the line in a tight affair.
Prediction: Williams in straight sets