Tennis: Top seed Simona Halep eclipses Venus Williams to set up Serena Williams clash

Simona Halep (above) celebrates after defeating Venus Williams during day six of the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia on Jan 19, 2019.
Simona Halep (above) celebrates after defeating Venus Williams during day six of the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia on Jan 19, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MELBOURNE (AFP ) - World No. 1 Simona Halep hit form to cruise past Venus Williams on Saturday (Jan 19) and set up a mouth-watering Australian Open last-16 clash with her sister Serena.

The Romanian top seed defeated Williams 6-2, 6-3 in one hour 17 minutes to post her best performance so far at this year's tournament after struggling through the early rounds.

"I think I played my best match here this year," the French Open champion said. "I'm really happy about the way I played, it's always a big challenge against the Williams sisters.

"I was super motivated today."

Halep, 27, reached the final at Melbourne Park in 2018 but arrived this year on a five-match losing streak, equalling the worst run of her career.

She was listless in her first two matches, complaining she was not at her best and grinding out three-set wins.

But against Williams, who is unseeded this year, Halep appeared sharp and focused, covering the court with a vigour her 38-year-old opponent could not match.

She expected a sterner test on Monday against Serena, who is chasing a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam at Melbourne Park and has an 8-1 winning record over the Romanian.

"Yeah, not easy. I just have to give my best," Halep said.

"I have nothing to lose, I play against a great champion. It's going to be a bigger challenge but I'm ready to face it."

Serena was relishing the prospect of facing the world's top-ranked player.

"I honestly would love to face the world No. 1, it will be great," she said. "I haven't played the world No. 1 since I've been back (from having a baby), so, yeah, it will be good."