MELBOURNE: Angelique Kerber and Madison Keys set up an enticing Australian Open quarterfinal on Monday, with one roaring through and the other having to dig deep to stay in the title hunt.
Dangerous Czech Tomas Berdych, a two-time Melbourne Park semi-finalist, also powered into the last eight, demolishing Italy’s Fabio Fognini 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.
His reward is a clash with either Swiss maestro Roger Federer or unheralded Hungarian Marton Fucsovics for a place in the semi-finals on Wednesday.
Germany’s Kerber is the only Grand Slam champion left on the women’s side of the draw, and she was given a big fright as she chases her second Melbourne Park crown after beating Serena Williams in 2016.
After crushing Maria Sharapova in the last round, she came up against gritty Taiwanese veteran Hsieh Su-wei who stunned the 21st seed by taking the first set on Rod Laver Arena.
At one point Kerber was serving to stay in the match, but she bounced back to win 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.
“Credit to her, she played unbelievable. I was running everywhere,” said Kerber, who had a poor 2017 after starting the year as world number one.
“I was just trying to focus on every point.”
Hsieh, ranked 88, was always going to be a threat after knocking out world number three Garbine Muguruza and the dangerous Agnieszka Radwanska en route to the fourth round.
The win set Kerber up with a clash against American Keys, a semi-finalist in 2015 who has found a new lease of life under the guidance of former great Lindsay Davenport.
Seeded 17, she flattened French eighth seed Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-2 in just 68 impressive minutes.
Whoever wins that match will have a potential semi-final against world number one Simona Halep, although the Romanian first has to get past Japan’s Naomi Osaka on Margaret Court Arena.
How she backs up will be keenly watched after her third round epic, where she was pushed to 15-13 in the third set by American Lauren Davis.
The final women’s match sees sixth seed Karolina Pliskova take on fellow Czech Barbora Strycova, seeded 20.
Berdych, a semi-finalist in 2014 and 2015 at his most successful major, easily beat Fognini with the 32-year-old saying: “I’m really enjoying every single moment on court.
“I’m feeling good and healthy.”