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Serena sets up teen protege showdown

Hurry up ... Serena Williams swept aside Russia's Maria Kirilenko in under an hour to set-up a quarter-final clash with Sloane Stephens.

Hurry up ... Serena Williams swept aside Russia's Maria Kirilenko in under an hour to set-up a quarter-final clash with Sloane Stephens. Photo: Reuters

Five-time champion Serena Williams has delivered another devastating display to set up a mouth-watering Australian Open showdown with her teenage heir apparent Sloane Stephens.

Williams dealt with Russian Maria Kirilenko as though she was running late for a nine o'clock movie, motoring into the last eight for the eighth time in Melbourne with a 6-2, 6-0 centre-court mauling on Monday night.

The 15-time grand slam champion landed almost 90 per cent of first serves and raised her tournament tally to a championship-best 30 aces in swatting aside Kirilenko in 57 minutes.

''I thought I played really well,'' Williams said. ''I didn't expect to come out and play so well tonight. I was like, 'Wow'. I saw I had like 95 per cent of first serves in the first set and I thought, 'Who is this girl?'

''It's not me normally.''

The victory was Williams's 40th from her past 41 matches and she will be a raging favourite on Wednesday to end the career-best run of 19-year-old Stephens, who idolises her fellow American.

''I think she's playing great,'' Williams said of her challenger.

''We played just two weeks ago in Brisbane and she played really unbelievable; I think she has incredible talent. I actually admire her as well. It will be a really tough match for me.''

Stephens qualified for her maiden grand slam quarter-final with a 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 win over Serbian Bojana Jovanovski, but will need to reverse her 6-4, 6-3 loss to Williams in Brisbane a fortnight ago to keep her dream campaign going.

The fast-rising world No.25 was giving Williams due respect but also refusing to rule out the possibility of causing a grand slam boilover.

''She's obviously one of the greatest players to ever play the game,'' Stephens said. ''Without all that, it's still a tennis match. You have to go out and play your game, no matter what.

''Without the titles, with the titles, it's still a tennis match. The court's the same size. You're still playing a regular person across the net. You've just got to go out and play.''

While Stephens will be contesting her first, 31-year-old Williams will line up for her 35th slam quarter-final.

Svetlana Kuznetsova believes a forced injury break has rekindled her love for the game, while admitting she had never been brave enough to take leave before. Kuznetsova had not thought of retiring after a broken bone in her knee interrupted her 11-year sequence of top 50 finishes, but is grateful for the freshness it has brought to her mind and game.

''I was just laying in bed, and I was like, thanks [to] my knee. At least I can rest, you know,'' said the surprise quarter-finalist, who meets top seed Victoria Azarenka on Wednesday, after her 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 defeat of Caroline Wozniacki.

''When the knee was sore it was so annoying to walk with the crutches all day long. I went to Thailand, I went to Bali, on the beach with crutches, all day long, and I had blisters on my hands. This was the most annoying thing, and then recovery. Kuznetsova said she would have laughed had anyone suggested before her arrival in Australia this month that hers would be among the last eight names standing in the women's draw. Having not played since Wimbledon, and thus missed a 41st consecutive major appearance at the US Open,she was forced to qualify for the Sydney International, her ranking at a lowly 85th.

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