Serena Williams insists she has nothing to lose when she takes on Britain’s Johanna Konta at the Australian Open.
Williams will be walking out for her 47th grand slam quarter-final while Konta is playing her second, and the American is also gunning for an Open era record 23rd major title in Melbourne.
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 reclaim the world number one ranking after the current incumbent Angelique Kerber was beaten in the fourth round by Coco Vandeweghe 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 clear favourite to collect a seventh Australian Open title.
She has never played Konta but is aware of her opponent’s remarkable rise, the Briton chasing her 12th consecutive victory after winning the Sydney International a fortnight ago.
“I have watched her game a lot,” Williams said.
“She’s been doing really, really well, and she hasn’t lost yet this year, I don’t think (she has once, at Shenzhen).
“She’s been playing really well. She has a very attacking game. I know her game pretty well and I look forward to it.”
Williams will be hoping to avoid another upset at Melbourne Park, where the top two seeds in the men’s draw – Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic – have both crashed out, as well as Kerber in the women’s.
Defeat for Williams would make it the first grand slam since the 2004 French Open that the top two seeds in both singles draws failed to make the semi-finals.
“Murray was very shocking. I went to bed by the time the other match came on, because it was getting to be so late – believe it or not, I’m still slightly jet lagged,” Williams said.
“But it’s been a couple of interesting weeks for Angie. You know, she’s been dealing with a lot. I think she was able to handle it the best she could.
“I think Coco played really well. I think she really just came up with a wonderful game plan and it was an easy match so it wasn’t too surprising.”