MELBOURNE, Australia - Angelique Kerber looked back to the form that took her to the 2016 Australian Open title on Wednesday, dispatching American rival Madison Keys, 6-1, 6-2, to reach the semifinals for the second time in three years and clinch a return to the world's Top 10.
"It's always tough against Madison but I tried to just go out and play my game," Kerber said during her on-court interview.
Kerber and Keys have played their share of thrilling matches in the past - most notably in the finals of Eastbourne and Charleston in 2014 and 2015, respectively - but Kerber's undefeated start to 2018 saw her through another emphatic victory on Rod Laver Arena, dropping just four points on her first serve and striking 13 winners in the 51 minute decision.
"I know what to expect," she explained in her post-match press conference. "Madison is a hard hitter, and she serves good. So I was trying to play aggressively from the first point, and moving good and also bringing a lot of balls back.
"I think this is always my game the last few weeks that I tried to improve, and this was also the plan today, I mean, going out there, trying to, yeah, taking the match in my hands."
Kerber has largely had things her own way throughout the fortnight, with the exception of a grueling three-setter against Hsieh Su-Wei in the Round of 16. The German improves to 7-1 against Keys, 6-0 on hardcourts.
"I'm not thinking about the records and head-to-heads. Every match starts from zero. It's a new tournament. We played so many matches, so I think just that I know what to expect.
"I'm feeling the ball really good, and I was enjoying the match. I was going out there and trying to playing my tennis again. Yeah, it was a good feeling again."
A finalist at last year's US Open, Keys hadn't dropped a set en route to the quarterfinals, but couldn't counter Kerber's variety and was drawn into 20 unforced errors to 13 winners of her own.
"I think she's really good at also being aggressive," Keys said. "She takes time away, especially with her forehand down the line. So what might be considered a "safe ball" against some people isn't, because you know you're going to be on the run. And she will come forward, and she just does a really good job of balancing getting every ball back but also putting you in a bad position.
"I think she played really well. I felt like I was trying different things but I wasn't playing very consistent. In the first set I played really passive, and because of that I feel like I wasn't moving as well, wasn't accelerating.
"So I wasn't very happy with how I played today, but still, I was fighting and trying to stay in the match. Sometimes you just don't play very well out there."
Up next for Kerber is the winner of another blockbuster quarterfinal match-up between top seed Simona Halep and former World No.1 Karolina Pliskova.
"I think both are completely different players completely. I think if I play against Simona, I think it will be a long match with a lot of long rallies. I played against her a lot of times, and it was always tough and close.
"But also against Karolina, I think it will be like maybe a little bit like today, the game, a big serve, hitting hard. You know, at the end, it's the same, like I said, the whole week. It doesn't matter against who I play. I'm in the semis right now, and I will try to continue how I play, and this is, for me, the most important thing."