Serena powers towards record title, top ranking

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Serena Williams kept up her pursuit of a record Grand Slam title and a return to world number one on Monday as she reached the Australian Open quarter-finals without dropping a set.

A day after defending champion and top seed Angelique Kerber fell by the wayside, Williams overcame Barbora Strycova 7-5, 6-4 to set up a last-eight clash with Britain’s Johanna Konta.

The American great would gain much from winning in Melbourne, as she would overtake Steffi Graf’s Open-era record of 22 Grand Slam titles and end Kerber’s short reign as world number one.

In hot conditions, she fought off the tenacious Strycova in two tight sets, following her sister Venus into the quarter-finals and staying on track for a possible all-Williams final.

“I have absolutely nothing to lose in this tournament,” said Williams, 35. “Everything here is a bonus for me. Obviously I’m here to win. Hopefully I can play better, I can only go better.”

Konta, the ninth seed, also reached the last eight with a perfect record in sets after a convincing 6-1, 6-4 victory over Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova.

Despite the task facing her, Konta was delighted to be playing Williams, a childhood idol, for what would be her second straight Australian Open semi-final. “I’m really looking forward to the challenge, and I’m looking forward to being on court, out on court with her and competing against her,” said the 25-year-old.

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