Aryna Sabalenka gave a statement of her intent at the Australian Open by powering past Belinda Bencic to reach the quarter-finals.

The Belarusian began the season by winning a title in Adelaide and is yet to drop a set in 2023 as she bids to win a first grand slam title.

Sabalenka has been knocking on the door for several years, reaching back-to-back semi-finals at the US Open and the last four at Wimbledon in 2021, but is yet to make a final.

Last year she began the season struggling to land her serve in the court but everything appears to have come together and Sabalenka was superb in a 7-5 6-2 victory over 12th seed Bencic, another in-form player, hitting 32 winners and only 18 unforced errors.

Consulting a biomechanical expert proved the key to fixing her serving issues and Sabalenka now sees it as a blessing in disguise.

“I’m super happy that this thing with my serve happened to me,” she said.

“Before I wouldn’t be really open for that. I would be like, ‘You know what, my serve is fine, I don’t want to change anything’. Actually, even when my serve was working, it wasn’t really right.

“I was, in that moment, open for whatever. I was just like, ‘Please, someone help me to fix this f***ing serve. I’m sorry for swearing, but this is how it was.”

Donna VekicDonna Vekic saw off teenager Linda Fruhvirtova (Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/AP)

“I want believe that the way I’m working right now, the way I’m on the court right now, this is the new beginning, and this is the next step. So I really want to believe that it’s going to really help me.”

The conditions at Melbourne Park this year are clearly favouring the power players and Sabalenka will be a big favourite to make the final from the bottom half, particularly following the exit of fourth seed Caroline Garcia in another upset.

Next up for fifth seed Sabalenka will be a clash with unseeded Croatian Donna Vekic, who ended the run of 17-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova with a 6-2 1-6 6-3 victory.

Vekic was also a former teenage prodigy and made her debut here a decade ago but this is only her second grand slam quarter-final.

Former world number one Karolina Pliskova has slid virtually unnoticed through the draw, reaching the last eight with a 6-0 6-4 victory over Zhang Shuai.

The Czech missed her first grand slam since the US Open in 2012 here last year after sustaining a hand injury.

Pliskova said: “Of course it’s amazing just to be here because I was really, really sad last year that I missed especially this part of the season.

“It just took me some while because I also started pretty much still with the pain. I felt like lately I was finding my game. Now I continue playing how I was playing in the US swing. Happy again to be in the quarter-finals second slam in a row.”

Garcia ended last season by winning the biggest title of her career at the WTA Finals and arrived in Melbourne as one of the favourites but fell to a shock loss against 45th-ranked Linette.

The Pole, who has unexpectedly gone further than her compatriots Iga Swiatek and Hubert Hurkacz, claimed a 7-6 (3) 6-4 victory to make the first grand slam quarter-final of her career.