Serena Williams insists she has nothing to lose when she takes on Britain’s Johanna Konta at the Australian Open.
Williams will be claiming her 47th grand slam quarter-final while Konta is to play her second. The American is also gunning for an Open era record 23rd major title.
One more triumph would pull Williams clear of Steffi Graf and one short of Margaret Court in the all-time list.
It would also see her reaching the world number one ranking after Coco Vandeweghe beat the current incumbent Angelique Kerber in the fourth round in Melbourne on Sunday.
Williams moved one step closer with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over 16th seed Barbora Strycova and now faces Konta, the in-form British number one, for a place in the last four.
“I have absolutely nothing to lose in this tournament,” Williams said, “everything here is a bonus for me.”
“Obviously I’m here to win. Hopefully I can play better. I can only go better.”
Williams chose not to play another match last year after the US Open in September, deciding instead to recover from niggling injuries and recuperate.
She then endured a second-round loss at her comeback in Auckland earlier this month, prompting doubts about her fitness and form coming into the first grand slam of the season.
Into the quarter-finals, however, and without dropping a set, Williams is now the favorite to collect a seventh Australian Open title.
She has never played with Konta before but she is aware of her opponent’s remarkable rise. The Briton is chasing her 10th consecutive victory after winning the Sydney International a fortnight ago.
“I have watched her game a lot,” Williams said. “She’s been playing really well. She has a very attacking game. I know her game pretty well and I look forward to it.”
The bottom half’s other quarter-final will see fifth seed Karolina Pliskova play one of the tournament’s fairy-tale stories in Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.
The Croatian, who turns 35 in March, overcame American qualifier Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-2 to reach the last eight of a grand slam for the first time in 18 years.
The last time she made it this far was at Wimbledon in 1999, when she lost to Graf in the semi-finals.
A string of personal problems, however, derailed her tennis career and meant sitting out every major tournament from 2004 until 2009, before returning at Wimbledon in 2010.
She had not gone past the first round at the Australian Open since 1998.
“I hope nobody is going to pinch me and wake me up because this is just incredible,” Lucic-Baroni said.
“It’s not a guarantee you’re going to get there but man, what satisfaction I feel right now – incredible.”
“And to anyone struggling out there, I can’t say because of the TV here, ‘F’ everything and everybody, whoever tells you, you can’t do it, just show up and do it with your heart.”
Lucic-Baroni will play Pliskova after the Czech beat Australia’s Daria Gavrilova 6-3, 6-3.