A ruthless display from seven-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams quelled the threat of teenage sensation Dayana Yastremska 6-2 6-1 to launch into the fourth round on Saturday.
The Ukrainian 18-year-old defeated the experienced Sam Stosur and Carla Suarez Navarro in only her second Grand Slam main draw, but was no match for Williams, who was in devastating form at Rod Laver Arena.
“I’m taking every match as it comes, but I’m playing as hard as I can, the best I can do and I love it out here,” stated the 37-year-old, having earned a fascinating last-16 duel with either sister Venus or world No.1 Simona Halep.
“Either way it will be a really intense match. I’m looking forward to it.
“I honestly would love to face the world No.1. At the same time I would love for Venus to win. I haven’t played the world No.1 since I’ve been back, I don’t think. It will be good, I’ll be ready for either opponent.”
Yastremska, who wasn’t even born when Serena lifted her first major back at the 1999 US Open, showed signs of nerves with an opening double fault, before Williams swatted away a forehand return winner without breaking stride to ignite an immediate break.
From there, Serena flicked a sumptuous forehand passing shot down the line to quickly post a 3-0 advantage.
Yastremska, ranked No.57, began to find her radar with a couple of heavy strikes earning a first game, and the Ukrainian had a spring in her step to the sit-down, where she read a sheet of notes.
The attitude and application were exemplary from the teenager, but Serena was simply in the zone, and the world No.16 clinched a clinical opening set in just 27 minutes.
In the second set, there was a defiant roar from Yastremska after an early hold, and the 18-year-old threatened to spark a comeback with a piercing forehand winner for 0-30. However, Serena kept catapulting down the serves, and prevailed in an exhausting rally to carve out her own break opportunity.
A damaging double fault from Yastremska surrendered serve, but she produced a scintillating forehand return winner over the net post from out wide to draw applause from Serena.
A 3-1 advantage was sharply built in favour of the 23-time Grand Slam champion en route to booking a ticket into the second week at Melbourne Park for the 15th time.
“You did amazing. You did so well. You did amazing. Don’t cry. You did really well,” Serena told the youngster at the net following match point, before hailing the Ukrainian’s approach.
“I thought she played amazing, came out swinging. I felt like she came out ready to go.
“It shows she wasn’t just there to play a good match, she was there to win. She wanted to win. That really broke my heart. I think she’s a good talent. It’s good to see that attitude.
“When I was younger I played against Lindsay Davenport, Martina Hingis, Monica Seles. Everyone I faced was in the ‘hall of fame’. Every match was intimidating, but you go out and do the best you can,” added Williams, before joking she should have mentioned her sister in that category too.
“How could I forget Venus? She still intimidates me.”
Either way, facing sister Venus or the world No.1 will truly examine Serena’s resolve in the search of the record-equalling major No.24.