Wimbledon should have been getting under way on Monday and the queue would have been building all weekend long, a tented village of flag-waving, gin-swigging tennis diehards doing whatever it takes to land a prized ticket.

The practice courts would have been bustling, news conferences with the world's elite players running all day Saturday and into Sunday, and the first bumper delivery of fresh strawberries would have arrived fresh from the fields of Kent.

Elite athletes and their entourages would have been milling around the grounds, before at 10.30am on Monday morning the paying spectators would have been released from their holding bay, many racing straight to the grass bank that is officially named Aorangi Terrace but better known as Henman Hill.

And at 11.30am, the first players would have been walking on court, the championships getting under way. To be there at such a time is a delicious thrill, the waiting over, the grounds teeming, the first points being played, and the anticipation escalating as to what might unfold over the next fortnight.

Yet this year Wimbledon was all quiet across the weekend; thousands did not queue for tickets; the line painters, the stewards, and the ball boys and ball girls stayed at home; and a whole lot more strawberry jam is being produced in England this year than last.

The 2020 championships were cancelled on April 1, the only reasonable decision available to the All England Club amid the coronavirus pandemic, but organisers are already preparing for next year's return.

And from the plot lines that are already emerging, it is clear we can expect a classic Wimbledon.

A farewell to great champions?

There is the very real prospect of tennis losing a huddle of its biggest stars practically all at once, with anyone that was considering bowing out this year surely now giving the glad eye to 2021.

Roger Federer will be just weeks short of his 40th birthday by next year's Wimbledon, and the same applies to Serena Williams, whose sister Venus will already be 41.

Andy Murray will be a relatively young 34 but his body has taken a battering, the Scot desperate to play more grand slams but also realistic enough to know there may not be many left for him. He longs for another Wimbledon, maybe just one more.

Between them, that quartet have won 22 Wimbledon singles titles, and all four could choose the 2021 tournament as their opportunity to bid farewell to the All England Club.

It's going to be an emotional tournament in any case, if we are back to normal, but if there are goodbyes to be said too, the championships promise to be one packed with indelible memories, and so many tears.

The magic numbers

Serena Williams has lost each of the past two Wimbledon women's finals and has been stuck on 23 grand slams since winning the 2017 Australian Open, agonisingly one short of Margaret Court's record.

Could Wimbledon be where Williams matches or even passes Court's total? The American remains the player to beat at Wimbledon, and her hunger for grand slam success has not remotely diminished over time.

There can be little doubt she is playing not purely for the love of it, but because of the thrill of the chase, and Williams might wind up disappointed at the end of her career, still marooned one adrift.

But what a story it would be if Williams were to win another Wimbledon, the last of her thirties. Don't put anything past her.

And the race to finish as the all-time leader on the men's side keeps rolling, a devil of a duty to predict who will come out on top between Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Another Wimbledon win for any of them could take on momentous significance in that respect.

A new men's Centre Court king, at last?

The last player to win the Wimbledon's men's singles, besides the 'Big Four' of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray, was Lleyton Hewitt in 2002.

And while the era of those four great players dominating in SW19 has been one to treasure, seeing a new champion crowned would be rather special.

There have been nine winners of the women's singles over the same period of time, multiple champions among them but also terrific one-off stories such as Marion Bartoli's triumph, the 17-year-old Maria Sharapova's big breakthrough, Amelie Mauresmo's great achievement, and the unbridled joy of Simona Halep last year.

Certainly there is so much to admire about the quartet that have ruled the men's singles, but a little novelty feels overdue.

Those queueing up to form a new dominant group need to push themselves forward, rather than play a waiting game.

Gauff gunning for major breakthrough

Gauff gunning for major breakthrough

What a revelation Coco Gauff became last year, defeating her great hero Venus Williams and reaching the fourth round, where it took eventual champion Halep to halt the 15-year-old's run.

She dramatically followed up by reaching the third round of the US Open and then round four of the Australian Open at the start of this year.

Between those two grand slams, Gauff also landed her first WTA title, in Linz, Austria, where she became the youngest winner on tour for 15 years.

The American teenager is the real deal, that much is clear, and she has a bright future.

Gauff demonstrated wisdom beyond her years off the court in early June with a terrific, powerful address at a Black Lives Matter rally in her Florida home town of Delray Beach.

May she return many times to Wimbledon.

Simona Halep is saddened by the cancellation of this year's Wimbledon, but described the honour of being defending women's singles champion for two years as "rare and special".

Wimbledon was this week cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has spread to over a million people worldwide.

It will mark the first time since World War Two that the grass-court grand slam has not been held.

Halep clinched her second major title at the All England Club last year, crushing Serena Williams in straight sets in the final.

In an interview with The Times, she said of not being able to defend her title this year: "Even though the cancellation of Wimbledon felt inevitable after the past few weeks, I had hoped it might somehow find a way to stay on the calendar as it is such a special tournament.

"So Wednesday was a sad day and I thought back to some of the happiest emotions of my life last year at the All England Club.

"I will miss going back to see Centre Court, the scene of that amazing final last year. I will miss seeing my name on the wall and all the nice things you get as a member of the club. I will miss the grass, a surface I finally fell in love with.

"I will miss wearing white. And I will miss the feeling of belonging as part of the huge tradition that Wimbledon represents.

"I know that Wimbledon looked at other opportunities to stage the championships. They looked at playing without spectators and postponing, but none of these options worked because of the nature of the surface and the high number of people involved. It makes sense to call it off now so that we are all mentally prepared for it, rather than to wait and let people down at the last minute.

"The club sent me a nice email on Wednesday. I had previously been discussing with them the prospect of doing some filming as the defending champion in the lead-up to the tournament. Hopefully we can do those things next year instead.

"In a positive way, I will have the rare and special honour of being a reigning Wimbledon champion for two years. I love the tradition in which the defending champion gets to open play on Centre Court, so I hope I can still do that next year as that will be something to savour."

The ATP and WTA Tours are both suspended and Wimbledon's cancellation has led to talk of the rest of the 2020 season being wiped out.

"The virus is like nothing we have ever faced before, and it's important to remember that tennis is not important in comparison to this life-threatening opponent," added Halep.

"At this point, I do not want to speculate on whether the remainder of the 2020 season will be shut down. We have to see clear signs that the virus is under control.

"We have to let our governments and medical staff do their jobs, and when life starts returning to normal, then we can start to think about tennis."

Roger Federer says he is "devastated" while Simona Halep was left feeling "so sad" following the decision to cancel Wimbledon.

Organisers announced on Wednesday that the 2020 tournament will not take place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ATP and WTA Tours have also been further suspended, with top-level tennis now not expected to resume until at least July 13.

Federer, who has won a record eight Wimbledon men's singles titles, had been planning to return to action in time for Wimbledon and the Olympic Games after undergoing knee surgery.

With both events now not taking place in 2020, the Swiss great tweeted to say he was "devastated" alongside a gif displaying the text 'There is no gif for these things that I am feeling'.

Reigning women's champion Halep was disappointed at missing out on the chance to defend her title this year, writing on Twitter: "So sad to hear Wimbledon won't take place this year.

"Last year's final will forever be one of the happiest days of my life! But we are going through something bigger than tennis and Wimbledon will be back! And it means I have even longer to look forward to defending my title."

Angelique Kerber, the 2018 champion, was left saddened to not only see Wimbledon and the Olympics called off but also the grass-court season as a whole.

"It goes without saying that I'm heavy hearted that the cancellation of the grass-court season also means that I won't be able to play in front of my home crowd in Bad Hamburg and Berlin..." she said.

"It's disappointing for me but also for all those who put their heart and soul into these events and for the fans who love our sport and support us players all year round.

"But I also know very well that there are more important things that we have to focus on right now and that professional sports have to take a step back for a while."

Rising American star Coco Gauff tweeted she would miss playing at the All England Club, while Petra Kvitova, winner in 2011 and 2014, said it was "definitely a tough one to take".

"Not only is it a special tournament to me, but it's a tournament that has been part of history for so long that it will leave a big hole in the calendar," Kvitova said.

"I will miss playing on the beautiful grass and wearing my whites, BUT of course we know it will be back better than ever next year. And maybe we will all appreciate it even more!"

In a message shared by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), Milos Raonic insisted the decision was "the right thing we have to do with everything that's going on around the world right now".

Marin Cilic, finalist in 2017, added: "Enjoy yourself at home. Now is the time to do some things that you don't have so much time to do when you're not at home."

Former champion Simona Halep and last year's runner-up Angelique Kerber have withdrawn from the Indian Wells Masters.

Halep and Kerber will miss the WTA Premier Mandatory tournament in Indian Wells due to injuries, it was announced on Friday.

Indian Wells champion in 2015, world number two Halep cited a foot injury for her withdrawal.

Kerber – a three-time grand slam champion – succumbed to an ongoing left leg problem, replaced in the main draw by Taylor Townsend.

"I'm incredibly disappointed to have to withdraw from the 2020 BNP Paribas Open. Unfortunately the foot injury that I picked up before Dubai is still causing me trouble and I will be unable to recover in time to travel to Indian Wells," Halep, the two-time major champion, said.

"It is without doubt one of the highlights of the tennis calendar for me and I will be really sad to miss it, but I'm already looking forward to being back in 2021!"

Bianca Andreescu won Indian Wells last year and the US Open champion could still defend her title, despite injuries preventing her from playing in 2020.

Simona Halep clinched her 20th career WTA title and first of 2020 as she overcame Elena Rybakina to win the Dubai Tennis Championship in thrilling fashion.

World number two Halep had to come from a set down against Rybakina, who put in a wonderful display and came within a break of securing her second title of 2020.

But the 20-year-old ultimately fell short in a final-set tie-breaker as Halep triumphed 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7-5) after two hours and 29 minutes on Saturday.

Halep, a Dubai champion in 2015, saved a break point in just the second game of the match but could not keep Rybakina at bay when the next opportunity came, going long in the sixth to fall behind.

Rybakina saw off two late openings to claim the set, only for Halep to make a brilliant start to the second and soon secure a trio of opportunities, breaking to love when Rybakina failed to pick out the left corner of the court.

Halep was made to work to consolidate the break but then had another two break points in the next game.

However, she passed up both opportunities, allowing Rybakina to roar back and break to love, with Halep signalling for her coach after going wide at the end of the rally.

Halep got the motivation she needed and chances came thick and fast in a mammoth game, which she eventually claimed en route to levelling the match when Rybakina slowed and a fourth break point was taken.

Momentum in the decider similarly swung back and forth, with Rybakina in control when Halep double-faulted before that advantage was immediately cancelled out.

A stunning volley put Rybakina 5-4 up, but Halep rallied to hold serve before breaking in the next game to take a 6-5 lead.

Yet Rybakina was not beaten and, at the second attempt, broke serve to force the tie-break.

Rybakina squandered the chance to take a 6-4 lead in the tie-break on her own serve, though, and Halep duly took advantage, with an overhit return handing the Romanian her second triumph in Dubai.

Simona Halep cruised into her first final of the year after a devastating 6-2 6-0 semi-final defeat of American qualifier Jennifer Brady at the Dubai Tennis Championships.

Top seed Halep came through a testing quarter-final with Aryna Sabalenka, but her last-four match was significantly more straightforward on Friday.

Halep blitzed through the encounter in just 62 minutes, the 2015 champion appearing way more at ease than in the pair's first-round clash at the Australian Open in January, when Brady succumbed 7-6 (7-5) 6-1.

World number two and two-time grand slam champion Halep faced only two break points in the entire match and she saved both, while she also hit 16 winners to eight unforced errors in a performance she felt was almost perfect.

"It's fun when you feel the ball and when you can do anything you want," Halep said. "Today it was one of those days, I could open the court easily. I felt like every time I hit the ball, I feel it.

"It's always a nice opportunity and privilege to play the last match of the tournament. I play for another trophy, so I'm relaxed. I'm focused. I really want it."

Elena Rybakina will be Halep's next opponent, with the Kazakh securing progress to a fourth final already this year.

Rybakina showed her resilience to come through a gripping duel with eighth seed Petra Martic, saving set points in both sets before eventually winning 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-2).

The 20-year-old has already beaten Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin and former world number one Karolina Pliskova in Dubai, and now she is aiming for the biggest scalp of the lot – and Halep knows she will need to be aggressive to upset the upstart's rise.

"It's amazing what [Rybakina's] done already this year," Halep added. "I saw her a little bit during some matches.

"She has a big serve. I have to pay attention on my return and to be like today: confident, aggressive if there is a chance, just fighting. It's the best thing to do now."

Simona Halep survived a scare against Aryna Sabalenka as she fought back from a set down to progress into the Dubai Tennis Championships semi-finals.

Halep, appearing for the first time since a run to the last four at the Australian Open, lost to Sabalenka in their most recent meeting - in Adelaide in January - but had won her prior two encounters with the world number 13.

Despite trailing in the first set, the world number two rallied in the second thanks to three breaks of serve, before cruising in the decider to wrap up a 3-6 6-2 6-2 win over her Belarusian opponent.

The Romanian, a Dubai champion in 2015, will now go up against Jennifer Brady, whose run of upsets continued as she overcame Australian Open finalist Garbine Muguruza to claim her third straight top-20 triumph.

Having already knocked out third seed Elina Svitolina and Marketa Vondrousova in previous rounds, Brady moved into the semis with a 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-4 win.

It is the first time in Brady's career that the American has made it into the last four of a WTA Premier event, though she was not fully satisfied with her performance.

"I wasn't feeling my best," she said in quotes reported by the WTA's official website. "Maybe I didn't play my best tennis, but I just found a way to stay in there, compete and come out on top."

The other semi-final will see Elena Rybakina, whose fine run continued with a win over Karolina Pliskova, meet Petra Martic.

Dubai debutant Rybakina has started 2020 in fine form and dispatched world number three Pliskova on Thursday, completing a 7-6 (7-1) 6-3 success in one hour and 41 minutes.

It means Rybakina has made her fourth semi-final in five tournaments so far this year, with a tie against Martic - who beat Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (7-4) 6-1 - her reward.

Top seed Simona Halep saved a match point in a gripping battle with Ons Jabeur before sealing her place in the quarter-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

Halep was on the brink of a surprise defeat to the in-form world number 45, but hung in there to win a thriller 1-6 6-2 7-6 (9-7) on Wednesday.

The two-time grand slam champion and Jabeur were given great backing from passionate Romanian and Tunisian supporters in a pulsating contest that swung one way and the other.

Halep appeared destined to complete the turnaround with ease when she led 3-0 in the final set, but the tenacious Jabeur was relishing the battle and showed great spirit to take the upper hand at 6-5.

The unseeded Jabeur was broken to love when serving for the match, though, and a double-fault gifted 2015 champion Halep a 4-2 lead in the tie-break, yet there was more drama to come.

Jabeur fended off three match points to earn one of her own, but Halep showed her grit to win the next two points before her gutsy opponent drilled a forehand long to end a tense two-hour contest.

Halep will face Aryna Sabalenka in the last eight after the seventh seed defeated Elise Mertens 6-4 6-3.

Australian Open runner-up Garbine Muguruza advanced with a hard-fought Veronika Kudermetova, winning 7-5 4-6 6-4 two days after knocking out the returning Kim Clijsters.

Elena Rybakina, a three-time finalist this year, got the better of Katerina Siniakova for the second successive week, a 6-3, 6-3 victory setting up a meeting with Karolina Pliskova.

Second seed Pliskova lost just three games in emphatic defeat of Kristina Mladenovic, while Petra Martic, Jennifer Brady and Anett Kontaveit were also victorious.

Simona Halep said the heat "killed" her as she surrendered to the sizzling game of Garbine Muguruza in their Australian Open semi-final.

With temperatures reaching the mid-30s at Melbourne Park, conditions were distinctly uncomfortable for both players on Rod Laver Arena.

The unseeded Muguruza prevailed in a gruelling battle, her 7-6 (10-8) 7-5 success setting up a final showdown against Sofia Kenin on Saturday.

Halep was in charge of each set until being reeled in both times by Muguruza, whose performances had dipped since winning Wimbledon and the French Open earlier in her career.

That grand slam title-winning form was back as Halep, who has also triumphed at the grass-court and clay-court slams, was edged out of the tournament.

"It was very, very hot today and I felt it," Halep said. "It killed me after the first set, in the end of the first set. The sun was strong. I didn't like that much to play in this weather."

Conditions were fractionally below the point on the tournament's heat stress scale at which the roof would have been automatically closed on the stadium court.

"I would love to see the roof closed. But rules are rules. We have to accept it," Halep said.

"The level of energy went down a little bit, and I felt it in the legs. I was not used to it in the last two weeks, we didn't have that much heat. And today I felt the sun a little bit too much. It was not 100 per cent right for me, but it is how it is."

With Australian favourite Ash Barty ousted in the first semi-final, it will be a surprising line-up in the title match.

Romanian Halep said defeat left her "in pain", given the control she held at different stages in the match.

"But life goes on," she said. "I think maybe I could be a little bit more brave in the points that were important. I didn't do that."

Muguruza looked like a player who might dominate the women's tour when she took the 2017 Wimbledon title in some style.

She reached number one in the WTA rankings later that year, but has dropped outside the top 30 since.

"If she can play every day like this, she can be number one, for sure," Halep said. "But it's tough to do that."

Halep knows, having spent 64 weeks at the summit.

"Consistency on tour, it's the most important thing and the toughest one," Halep added. "She's a great champion. She knows how to win grand slams, how to win titles."

Garbine Muguruza advanced to her first Australian Open final after the former world number one outlasted 2018 runner-up Simona Halep in Melbourne on Thursday.

After struggling following her 2017 Wimbledon triumph, Spanish star Muguruza has looked like a player reborn since reuniting with former coach Conchita Martinez. 

Muguruza - who split from Martinez two years ago - continued her fine form after upstaging fourth seed Halep 7-6 (10-8) 7-5 in oppressive heat at Melbourne Park.

Unseeded for the first time at a slam since the 2014 French Open, two-time major champion Muguruza will meet 14th seed Sofia Kenin in Saturday's final.

With the Rod Laver Arena roof open, despite the scorching conditions as the heat stress scale sat just below the required five to trigger a suspension of play and roof closure, Muguruza and Halep slogged it out from the baseline.

Muguruza clinched the first break in the seventh game and had the chance to serve out the set at 5-4, but Halep reeled off three straight games to force a tie-break.

The tie-break was a rollercoaster as Muguruza went from leading 3-0 to trailing 4-3, while the pair both had set points before the former won a 20-shot rally to eventually close it out.

It was the first time Halep, who was hospitalised due to dehydration following a gruelling showdown against Caroline Wozniacki in the 2018 Australian Open final as tournament organisers were criticised for not closing the roof in hot weather, had dropped a set at this year's event.

Clearly frustrated after losing the set, Halep regrouped and broke Muguruza to take a 2-1 lead, only to hand it straight back as the pair exchanged three consecutive breaks.

Halep had the chance to level the match at 5-4, but just like Muguruza in the first set, failed to do so as the latter broke at the fourth time of asking.

It opened the door for Muguruza, who won four successive games as Halep fell at the semi-final stage of a major for the first time since the 2015 US Open.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN 
Muguruza bt Halep [4] 7-6 (10-8) 7-5

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS   
Muguruza – 39/44
Halep – 20/23

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS   
Muguruza – 10/2
Halep – 2/1

BREAK POINTS WON  
Muguruza – 4/14
Halep – 3/13

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE  
Muguruza – 59
Halep – 72

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE  
Muguruza – 71/42
Halep – 62/44

TOTAL POINTS  
Muguruza – 90
Halep – 87

Simona Halep said she is "more confident" thanks to the experience of winning two grand slams as the in-form former world number one looks to add the Australian Open title to her growing collection.    

Halep is flying high in Melbourne following Wednesday's quarter-final demolition of Anett Kontaveit - the former French Open and Wimbledon winner claiming a 6-1 6-1 victory in just 53 minutes.

Yet to drop a set at Melbourne Park, Halep was beaten in the 2018 Australian Open final against Caroline Wozniacki but the Romanian star is on track to go one step further this year.

Halep – who ended her wait for a maiden major at the 2018 French Open following three losing slam finals – was asked if it feels easier to win now and the fourth seed told reporters: "It's different in my mind. It's not easier at all. 

"You still feel the pressure. You still feel the heaviness of this tournament.

"I just feel more confident and I feel like I'm able to do it. It's just a feeling that you don't see this trophy is impossible anymore. This is what I'm feeling about the grand slams now."

Halep added: "Any grand slam, it's a priority. I will not just choose one. But, of course, it's going to be great if I will be able to win one on hard court."

It was a devastating display from Halep on Rod Laver Arena, where the fourth seed reeled off 11 consecutive games to blitz her Estonian opponent under the bright Melbourne sun.

Kontaveit was powerless to stop the onslaught as Halep looks ahead to a semi-final against fellow two-time slam champion and former world number one, Garbine Muguruza.

"Perfection doesn't exist, but I'm very happy with the way I played. I felt great on court," Halep said. "I was moving great. I felt the ball, like, really, really good. It was a great match."

Simona Halep raced through to her second Australian Open semi-final after mercilessly blitzing Anett Kontaveit in straight sets on Wednesday.

Former world number one Halep dismantled 28th seed Kontaveit 6-1 6-1 in just 53 minutes on Rod Laver Arena at Melbourne Park.

A two-time grand slam champion, Halep barely raised a sweat as the fourth seed reeled off 11 consecutive games before the helpless Kontaveit finally halted the slide at 5-0 in the second set, but it was too little too late.

Halep – the 2018 runner-up – will face either Garbine Muguruza or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for a spot in her second Australian Open final.

Kontaveit was attempting to become the first Estonian to reach a slam semi-final after beating Astra Sharma, Sara Sorribes Tormo, Belinda Bencic and Iga Swiatek en route to the final eight.

But she was no match for Romanian star Halep, who is yet to drop a set at this year's major in Melbourne.

A battle from the baseline, Kontaveit held her own early but she was quickly put to the sword as Halep broke in the third game and never looked back.

Kontaveit, who initially dug herself out of a 0-40 hole in the fifth game as Halep broke at the fifth opportunity, faded quickly without a trace.

Halep continued where she left off in the second set, racing out to a devastating 5-0 lead in front of a stunned crowd.

Kontaveit stopped the rot to hold serve, though Halep – who has never dropped a set against the Estonian – served out the second set in just 24 minutes.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN 
Halep [4] bt Kontaveit [28] 6-1 6-1

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS   
Halep – 12/10
Kontaveit – 15/15

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS   
Halep – 5/1
Kontaveit – 0/0

BREAK POINTS WON  
Halep – 5/11
Kontaveit – 0/1

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE  
Halep – 78
Kontaveit – 66

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE  
Halep – 78/44
Kontaveit – 48/44

TOTAL POINTS  
Halep – 54
Kontaveit – 34

Simona Halep continued her imperious form at the Australian Open as she secured a quarter-final spot at the expense of Elise Mertens.

Yet to drop a set at these finals, the fourth seed produced another commanding performance to book a meeting with Anett Kontaveit.

Garbine Muguruza felled another seed, Kiki Bertens beaten in just 69 minutes by the Spaniard, as she reached the last eight in Melbourne for only the second time.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova also progressed after a tense battle with 2016 champion Angelique Kerber.

 

KONTAVEIT WINS EPIC TO EARN HALEP SHOWDOWN

Beaten in their previous meeting in Doha last February, Halep had to work hard for a 6-4 6-4 victory over Mertens as she reached the quarter-finals in Australia for the fourth time.

After Mertens recovered from a 3-1 deficit to lead 4-3, Halep went on a six-game winning streak to take the opening set and move 3-0 up in the second.

Mertens rallied again to recover a double break, but Halep battled to move 5-4 ahead before serving out to love.

"Mentally, I think I did a great job today at four-all with those break points, game points," she said. "But in the end, I got the game and then I served very well the last game. I feel like I played a better match than all the matches since I'm here."

Halep now faces Kontaveit, who came through a punishing three-set clash against Polish teenager Iga Swiatek.

Kontaveit recovered to win 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 7-5 to become the first Estonian to reach the quarter-finals of a major.

MUGURUZA POWERS PAST BERTENS 

Muguruza claimed back-to-back wins over top-10 players by beating Bertens 6-3 6-3 to reach a grand slam quarter-final for the first time since the 2018 French Open.

The 26-year-old, who knocked out world number five Elina Svitolina in round three, has an eye on the big prize already after showing too much power for ninth-seed Bertens, hitting 19 winners and six aces. 

"It is very good to be back here," she said. "It is one of the grand slams that one day I would like to win. It's exciting." 

Next for Muguruza will be Pavlyuchenkova, who triumphed 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 over Kerber in two hours and 41 minutes. 

Having lost the first set after surrendering a double break, the Russian fought back to edge a tight second with a thumping return winner on her fifth set point.

The third set was more one-sided as Pavlyuchenkova moved 5-2 up and serving out the match with an ace.

Simona Halep believes the run to the Australian Open last 16 by Coco Gauff is a "great thing" for tennis and expects the 15-year-old to win a grand slam "soon".

Gauff stunned defending champion Naomi Osaka in the third round to match her best career performance at a major, which she previously achieved at Wimbledon.

The American was knocked out by eventual tournament winner Halep in the fourth round at the All England Club.

Both players are in contention for glory in Melbourne after the fourth seed joined the teenager in round four with a 6-1 6-4 win over Yulia Putintseva on Saturday.

Halep was asked about the contrast in women's tennis between Gauff thriving at 15 and Caroline Wozniacki retiring at 29 at a time 38-year-old Serena Williams is soon to be re-joined by another veteran in Kim Clijsters.

"Well, it's kind of a big mix here with the 15-year-old that is winning matches in a grand slam and makes it look easy," said the 28-year-old.

"And a 29-year-old retiring, so I'm very close but, yes, I hope not yet! But also we have a 38-year-old still playing, Serena. Everyone has their own feelings about this sport. 

"What Coco Gauff is doing in this moment is a great thing. I'm sure that she gets a lot of confidence, and soon she will be able to win one of these big tournaments.

"And about Kim it's really nice to hear that she's coming back. I played once against her and I lost. 

"Maybe I will have another chance to play against her, because actually, she was a model for me growing up, so I look forward to see her back on tour."

Gauff will meet compatriot Sofia Kenin in the last 16 while two-time grand slam winner Halep takes on Elise Mertens.

Osaka has discussed the pressures of returning to the top events as a major champion but Halep feels her previous successes at the French Open and Wimbledon give her an advantage.

Halep said: "It was different because I played few finals before and actually I felt that it's really tough to get one. 

"After I did it, I felt like, okay, it's really tough but it's possible. Everything is possible.

"So maybe I relaxed a little bit more and I don't see that these tournaments are so out of reach anymore. So I feel more confident."

And Halep insisted seeing Williams, Osaka, Karolina Pliskova, Elina Svitolina and Belinda Bencic crash out in the early stages does not make her worried about being the next victim of an upset.

"I hope not," she said. "I just take the responsibility on my game, and I have expectations for myself, but I know that everything can happen. So I'm ready to fight for every match I play. 

"I know at this level everything can happen, so that's why sometimes I'm a little bit stressed, sometimes I'm relaxed.

"It's just a tournament, and I'm sure that for you guys it's a little bit of shock when the top-10 players are losing, but it's life and we cannot be 100 per cent every day. So we go ahead, and if I'm still in the tournament, it's a good thing."

Second seed Karolina Pliskova and fifth seed Elina Svitolina were high-profile casualties in the third round of the Australian Open on Saturday.

Pliskova fell to a straight-sets defeat to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Svitolina was soundly beaten by two-time grand slam champion Garbine Muguruza.

Belinda Bencic and Donna Vekic were also sent packing, losing to Anett Kontaveit and Iga Swiatek respectively.

There was no sign of a slip-up from former world number one Simona Halep, however, as she made serene progress to the next round by easing past Yulia Putintseva.

 

PLISKOVA, SVITOLINA CRASH OUT

After defending champion Naomi Osaka and 23-time grand slam winner Serena Williams were eliminated on Friday, Pliskova joined the star duo in dropping out of the tournament.

Pliskova went down 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-3) to 30th seed Pavlyuchenkova in the first match on Rod Laver Arena on Saturday.

"I think she was playing very well. Maybe the best she played against me so far in the last couple matches," Pliskova told reporters. "But let's say I was [at] about 40 per cent of my game, so of course then she can feel so much better if I just don't play enough [of] what I can play. 

"That's how it is. I think especially [in] the important moments she always served well so I had a couple chances here and there. But I think she just played better than me."

Svitolina did not fare much better as she lost to Muguruza in 67 minutes, the Spaniard - now ranked 32 in the world - hitting 31 winners to advance 6-1 6-2.

 

BENCIC, VEKIC SENT PACKING

It was another tough day for seeds as Bencic (6) and Vekic (19) failed to progress beyond the third round in Melbourne.

US Open semi-finalist Bencic was swept aside in just 49 minutes, humbled 6-0 6-1 by 28th seed Kontaveit on Margaret Court Arena.

"I think every grand slam there are seeded players losing, so I think this grand slam was even the best because no top-10 player lost in first round," she said in a news conference. "It's the same at every grand slam. There are upsets, and I think it's normal, because it's tennis, and tennis is very unpredictable."

Kontaveit will face Swiatek after the 18-year-old stunned Vekic 7-5 6-3.

 

HALEP, KERBER MOVE ON

Halep thwarted in-form Putintseva 6-1 6-4 to move through to the second week of the slam for a third consecutive year.

Fourth seed Halep - runner-up in Melbourne two years ago - needed one hour, 18 minutes to progress to the fourth round.

Away from Rod Laver Arena, 2016 champion Angelique Kerber ground out a 6-2 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 victory over Italian Camila Giorgi.

Kerber was pushed but the three-time major winner clinched a spot in the fourth round for the fifth successive season after two hours, eight minutes.

 

MERTENS AND BERTENS ADVANCE

Next up for Halep is 16th seed Elise Mertens, who required three sets to overcome CiCi Bellis.

Mertens was two points from victory in the second set after taking a 5-4 lead in the tiebreak but failed to close it out. However, she managed to keep her run alive by reeling off the next six games in succession.

The 2018 semi-finalist breezed through the final set to wrap up a 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 6-0 victory in just under two hours.

Joining Mertens in the next round was Dutch ninth seed Kiki Bertens, who made the second week of the Australian Open for the first time.

Bertens claimed a 6-2 7-6 (7-3) victory over Zarina Diyas and has a meeting with Svitolina's conqueror Muguruza to look forward to.

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