Serena Williams made the ultimate statement when she overcame world No 1 Simona Halep to fight through to the quarter-final of the Australian Open.
Under severe pressure from the Romanian, and with her movement skills properly tested, she won 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in an hour and 47 minutes.
Williams showed that she has not lost the ability to lift herself at the crucial times, and did so again when staring at going a break down in the middle of the decider.
Another severe test awaits, against big-serving seventh seed Karolina Pliskova, who was impressive in beating Jo Konta’s late-night conqueror Garbine Muguruza 6-3, 6-1.
‘It was a really intense match and some incredible points but I love playing tennis and being out here,’ said Williams. ‘I really needed to elevate my game, I had to play like I knew I could and that was hopefully the difference.
‘I’m such a fighter I just never give up. It’s definitely something that’s innate. It’s a miracle I’m here and I get to do something I enjoy. I keep fighting for every point.’
This was Williams’ first match against a world No 1 since returning to the tour following childbirth. She was facing the speedy Romanian for the 10th time, having amassed an 8-1 record in their previous meetings.
Things got off to a strange start when the American walked out upon hearing ‘please welcome the world No 1’ from the announcer, only to have to sheepishly walk straight back into the tunnel on realising her mistake (she is currently ranked 16th).
The two traded breaks in the first two games but thereafter Williams bore down on her opponent, reeling off five games and the first set, her power too much even for Halep’s retrieving skills.
The American looked to be cruising at a break up in the second set, but Halep started to get more purchase on her returns against a player who has come in here – again – with little tennis behind her.