MELBOURNE: Ageless Venus Williams powered into an amazing 37th career Grand Slam quarterfinal on Sunday to set up an Australian Open showdown with dogged Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
The American, 36, needed all her big-match experience to dismantle determined German qualifier Mona Barthel on Rod Laver Arena 6-3, 7-5.
Williams’ victory puts her into a ninth quarter-final at Melbourne Park in a tournament she is yet to win during a storied career that has earned her seven Grand Slam titles, though none since Wimbledon 2008.
Next up is Pavlyuchenkova, who upset Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-3, ending the fellow Russian’s distant dream of a third Grand Slam title.
“It’s what you do all the practising for in the off-season. It’s wonderful to be in a position to go even further,” said Williams.
“She played well, there were so many balls coming back. It’s wonderful to get to a quarter-final against a player who was on fire.”
Williams and Barthel had met two times before, with the American winning both of them in two sets.
But despite her lowly 118 ranking, Barthel was never going to be a walkover.
She has three career singles titles to her name and is on the comeback trail after suffering chronic fatigue illness last year, which forced her to miss four months of the season.
Seeded 13, Williams used her wealth of experience to pounce early and storm to a 3-0 lead. She gave a service game away before reasserting her dominance with another break back.
Undeterred, Barthel, gunning for her first ever Grand Slam quarter-final, kept coming back, winning a titanic seventh game that included six deuces to keep her hopes alive.
Williams, with the bright sun appearing to cause her problems, particularly on serve, hit more unforced errors in the set but a superior number of winners made the difference as she finally nailed it in 42 minutes.
It was a much closer affair in the second set with neither player buckling until a patient Williams, the oldest player in the women’s draw, seized her opportunity in game 11.
She worked three break points, converting with a sizzling forehand down the line.
The composed veteran, whose sister Serena faces Barbora Strycova for a place in the quarter-finals on Monday, then served out the set in 54 minutes to complete a testing win, ending Barthel’s six-match streak after she came through qualifying.