World No.1 Simona Halep insists she is no longer intimidated by the daunting prospect of taking on Serena Williams ahead of their fourth-round blockbuster at the Australian Open.
Halep has won only one of nine previous clashes against the 23-time major winner, all of which took place before Williams took time off tour for the birth of daughter Olympia.
The Romanian advanced to the round-of-16 showdown by ousting Williams' older sister Venus 6-2 6-3 on Saturday, while Serena belted Ukrainian teenager Dayana Yastremska 6-2 6-1.
(Serena was intimidating) when I was younger, but now I don't feel intimidated anymore," said Halep.
"I have huge respect for her because she's a great champion, but she's just an opponent next round."
Halep has held the year-end No.1 ranking for each of the past two years, a period during which she won her maiden major title in 2018 at Roland Garros.
But that record still pales in comparison to that of the 37-year-old Williams, who is just one major crown away from equalling legendary Australian Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 women's grand slam titles.
"In my opinion, to be No.1 in the world and to be the best player in the world, it's a little bit different," said Halep.
"In this moment, I'm No.1 in the world so I will take that. I feel like I have been there many months, many weeks. But for sure she's the best player in the world because she won so many grand slams.
"She's been a lot at No.1 and I cannot compare my results to her.
"But in this moment, I am confident that I am in this position and I'm positive about it."
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.
"It will be great. I haven't played the world No.1 since I've been back."
Japan's No.4 seed Naomi Osaka, who beat Williams in the controversial final of last year's US Open, had a tough time 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.
Two-time major winner Garbine Muguruza from Spain, the No.18 seed, ousted Swiss Timea Bacsinszky 7-6 (7-5) 6-2.
Australian Associated Press