Halep sends Venus Williams packing in Australian Open

World No.1 Simona Halep has set up a fourth-round blockbuster at the Australian Open against Serena Williams by sending the 23-time major winner's older sister Venus packing in straight sets.

The top seed from Romania, who belatedly claimed her maiden major title at last year's French Open, downed Venus Williams 6-2 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena last night.

Next on the agenda for Halep is a round-of-16 clash against Serena Williams, who demolished Ukrainian teenager Dayana Yastremska 6-2 6-1 earlier in the day.

"I will play against a great champion and I have nothing to lose," said Halep after beating the elder Williams in a match lasting one and 16 minutes.

"It's going to be a bigger challenge. I am ready to face it."

Halep advanced to the final at Melbourne Park for the first time last year before losing the title match to Caroline Wozniacki.

To get the chance to go one better in 2019, the Romanian will next have to find a way past a seven-time Australian Open champion in the history-chasing Williams.

The 37-year-old is just one major crown away from equalling legendary Australian Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 women's grand slam titles.

Williams has dropped only a miserly nine games in her opening three victories against Tatjana Maria, Eugenie Bouchard and Yastremska, the fewest of any woman through to the last 16.

"I honestly would love to face the world No.1. At the same time I would love for Venus to win," said Williams, several hours before learning that it was Halep who would be her fourth-round opponent.

"I'll be ready for either opponent.

"It will be great. I haven't played the world No.1 since I've been back (after the birth of daughter Olympia), I don't think."

Japan's No.4 seed Naomi Osaka, who beat Williams in the controversial final of last year's US Open, had a much tougher time in the third round at Melbourne Park on Saturday before finding a way past Hsieh Su-Wei from Taiwan 5-7 6-4 6-1.

Her opponent in the round of 16 will be Latvian No.13 seed Anastasija Sevastova, who beat China's Wang Qiang 6-3 6-3.

No.6 seed Elina Svitolina from Ukraine came back from 3-0 down in the third set to end the challenge of China's Zhang Shuai 4-6 6-4 7-5.

Svitolina had a medical time-out and several courtside massages for a shoulder complaint during the marathon match on Rod Laver Arena.

Simona Halep of  Romania celebrates during day 4 of the Australian Open on January 17 2019, at Melbourne Park in Melbourne.
Simona Halep of  Romania celebrates during day 4 of the Australian Open on January 17 2019, at Melbourne Park in Melbourne. Source: Photosport