Defending champion Aryna Sabalenka was too strong for Amanda Anisimova at the Australian Open

Melbourne (AFP) - Ruthless world number two Aryna Sabalenka moved a step closer to a successful title defence with another dominant display to make the Australian Open quarter-finals on Sunday.

The Belarusian was in total control against unseeded American Amanda Anisimova on Margaret Court Arena, blazing home 6-3, 6-2 in 70 minutes.

Sabalenka has dropped a scant 11 games in her four matches and with top seed Iga Swiatek out of the tournament, is the clear favourite to win a second Grand Slam.

Should she do so, she will be the first woman to retain the title since compatriot Victoria Azarenka completed the feat in 2013.

“Super happy with the level and to get this win, she is a tough opponent,” said the 25-year-old, who has embraced her status as reigning champion in Melbourne.

“I’m getting stronger because I enjoy the atmosphere and I really want to stay here as long as I can till the very last day.”

Anisimova, who is on the comeback trail after an eight-month break for burnout and mental health issues, won her first four encounters against Sabalenka.

But the Belarusian turned the tables the last time they met, in Rome in 2022, and with Anisimova now ranked 442 the writing was on the wall.

She had no answer to Sabalenka’s devastating power in the first set, which was briefly interrupted when it began to rain and the roof had to be closed.

The second seed scored a break in game two when Anisimova netted a forehand, with the American saving a break point in her next service game to prevent falling even further behind.

But she was being bossed by Sabalenka and it was only a matter of time before she wrapped up the set in 36 minutes.

It was a similar story in the second set, with Sabalenka taking advantage of unforced errors from Anisimova on her opening serve for the crucial break.

Another break put her 5-2 in front and she served out for the match.

Sabalenka enjoyed a breakthrough 2023.

As well as winning the Australian Open she made the semi-finals in Paris and at Wimbledon before losing to Coco Gauff in the final of the US Open.