A methodical Serena Williams remains on track for a tasty semi-final showdown with Ash Barty after a straight-sets win over Tsvetana Pironkova at the Yarra Valley Classic.
The 23-time grand-slam champion made light work of the Bulgarian in the first set before grinding out the second for a 6-1 6-4 victory.
Showing few movement issues after her 2020 season was brought to a premature end because of an Achilles injury, the American eased into the last eight after the 74-minute effort against the world No.137.
Having already comfortably accounted for Australian Daria Gavrilova, Williams kicked things up a notch on Wednesday, a few too many unforced errors one of the few negative take-outs from the match.
Pironkova hung tough after a forgettable first set, taking the 39-year-old to 4-4 and saving three match points before spilling a backhand long on the fourth.
Williams had admitted she was lucky to even make the starting blocks for the season-opening slam, the COVID-enforced move to February giving her just enough time to fully recover and prepare after the injury.
She’ll now be eyeing off a deep run in her only lead-up to the Melbourne major, the ultimate goal to equal Margaret Court’s 24 grand-slam singles titles at the Australian Open.