Melbourne: A "super-focused" Serena Williams joined sister Venus in the fourth round of the Australian Open Saturday, ruthlessly snuffing out Nicole Gibbs's challenge as she accelerates towards a record 23rd Grand Slam title.
The second seed clinically dispatched her fellow American 6-1, 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena, further dispelling any lingering doubts about her early-season form.
It is the 14th time in her 17 Australian Opens she has made at least the fourth round, and sets her up with a clash against 16th-seeded Czech Barbora Strycova, who beat French 21st seed Caroline Garcia.
"It was really good to get this under my belt," she said. "I always try to take everyone super-serious and I'm always super-focused."
Williams, looking to become the most decorated Grand Slam champion in the Open era, contested just eight events in an injury-shortened 2016, concluding with the US Open.
But any doubts about her form have been put to bed in Melbourne with three comfortable wins -- including over former top-ten players Belinda Bencic and Lucie Safarova.
She hardly got out of first gear against Gibbs, dictating terms from the opening game against a player ranked 92 who had never been past the third round at any major.
Gibbs, who was only two years old when Williams made her WTA debut in 1995, was overawed and broken in the fourth game, with the 35-year-old winning every net point she contested.
It was a leisurely work-out with Williams having an answer for everything Gibbs threw at her, breaking again to race through the set in just 26 minutes.
After her second round, Williams said she had been trying to channel positive thoughts on court as she targets a seventh Australian crown, which would also take her past Steffi Graf's Open-era record of 22 major titles.
She cranked up the pressure in the second set, breaking Gibbs on a double fault to go 2-1 ahead.
Williams, who played her first match on Rod Laver Arena 19 years ago, was going through the motions but she let her guard down briefly when serving for the match, allowing Gibbs to secure her first and only break.
It only delayed the inevitable, with Gibbs promptly broken for the fifth time as Williams drew her masterclass to a close.
Gutted Cibulkova becomes latest seed to crash
A bitterly disappointed Dominika Cibulkova became the latest top seed to crash out of the Australian Open Saturday when she was upset by Russian dark horse Ekaterina Makarova.
The Slovak sixth seed and WTA Finals champion joins third seed Agnieszka Radwanska and fourth-seeded Simona Halep as first-week casualties, blowing the draw wide open.
Makarova, 28, was never going to be a pushover.
Melbourne Park has been her most successful Grand Slam and her marathon 6-2, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3 win in nearly three hours put her in the fourth round for a seventh consecutive time.
In 2015 she made a memorable run to the semi-finals, losing to Maria Sharapova, who is serving a drugs ban.
"It was an amazing match, an amazing fight," Makarova said. "This is my favourite Grand Slam and I really want to stay here.
"I want to enjoy this win today because it is my first against Dominika and she is a great player."
It was an agonising end for Cibulkova, who fell last year in the first round.
"This loss is just one that I will think about for a few days, I will have in my head, because I really felt that I had the match," she said.
"Sometimes you lose a match like this, and you just really want to go back 45 minutes, and do things maybe differently. I would really want to change it, but you cannot do it anymore."
The Slovak, runner-up to China's Li Na in the 2014 final, looked out of sorts and was broken in her second service game after some probing baseline rallies.
She struggled to contain the left-hander's booming forehand and another sizzler down the line gave Makarova a second break to take control of the first set 4-1.
A frustrated Cibulkova began talking to herself between points and she pulled back a break when Makarova sprayed a forehand long and wide.
Makarova raced to a 4-0 second-set lead but Cibulkova then staged a stunning fightback, winning five games in a row as Makarova tired.
The Russian saved three set points in a 10th game that went for nine minutes before the set headed to a tiebreak, where Cibulkova prevailed.
After time off court during the changeover, Makarova returned and they traded breaks in an intense third set before Cibulkova sent a forehand wide to hand over the advantage.
It was all Makarova needed as she clung on for a famous victory.
Konta blitzes Wozniacki to continue hot run
Rampant Johanna Konta blitzed former world number one Caroline Wozniacki Saturday to set up an intriguing fourth-round Australian Open clash with Makarova.
The British ninth seed, who made the semi-finals last year to kickstart a breakthrough season, banished the Danish former world number one 6-3, 6-1 on Margaret Court Arena.
It sets up a showdown with Makarova, also a former Melbourne semi-finalist, who upset sixth seed Dominika Cibulkova in three hard-fought sets.
Is she comes through that test, the mighty Serena Williams is a potential quarter-final opponent.
"I really asserted myself from the get-go. I definitely played a high level today," she said. "Caroline really makes you work for it. I'm definitely happy with my level."
Konta, who is yet to drop a set, had never played Wozniacki before, making for an interesting battle.
The Briton, 25, kept the Dane on the move, pushing her around the baseline as she looked for an opening, which came in the seventh game when she worked Wozniacki wide and came to the net to smash a volley winner.
The confident, Australian-born Brit wasted no time in holding serve then breaking again to secure the set in 42 minutes, hitting an incredible 20 winners to Wozniacki's one.
Konta, who won the lead-up Sydney International, likes to play high on the baseline, taking the ball early and dictating the point, a tactic that left Wozniacki struggling.
She broke the 20th-seeded Wozniacki to go 2-0 in front with the Dane, who prides herself on being one of the fittest on tour, having no answers to a player on a hot run of form.
It was one-way traffic as Konta raced to the finish line, leaving a dazed Wozniacki, who has put injury struggles aside and enjoyed a resurgence over the past year, left to wonder what hit her
Lucic-Baroni fires another blast from the 1990s
Nineties doubles queen Mirjana Lucic-Baroni claimed another Australian Open scalp Saturday to keep her fairytale run alive at the opening Grand Slam of the year.
The 34-year-old Croat, who stunned third seed Agnieszka Radwanska in round two, came from a set down to end the dreams of Greek Maria Sakkari 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
She will now play American qualifier, Jennifer Brady who shocked 14th seed Elena Vesnina 7-6 (7/4), 6-2.
It has been a memorable tournament so far for Lucic-Baroni, who won the Australian Open doubles title way back in 1998.
Until this year she had never gone beyond the second round since her debut in 1998, setting the new record of a 19-year gap between wins at a single Grand Slam tournament.
It surpassed the previous record held by Japan's Kimiko Date, who went 17 years between victories at Wimbledon between 1996 and 2013.
With inputs from AFP
Published Date: Jan 21, 2017 12:18 PM | Updated Date: Jan 21, 2017 12:19 PM