Serena crushes Sharapova to reach Australian Open semifinals

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World number one Serena Williams destroyed Maria Sharapova for an 18th straight time Tuesday to inflict more pain on her long-time Russian rival and power into the Australian Open semi-finals.

The six-time Melbourne Park champion out-muscled the fifth seed 6-4, 6-1 and will meet Agnieszka Radwanska for a place in the final as she moves closer to matching Steffi Graf's Open-era Grand Slam record of 22 titles.


The signs for Radwanska are ominous - every time the American has got past the quarter-final at Melbourne Park she has gone on to win the tournament, including last year when she also beat Sharapova.

For the Russian five-time Grand Slam winner, 28, her demoralising jinx against one of the greatest players ever remains intact.

It dates back to 2004 when she last beat Williams in the Wimbledon final. Her downfall started in an epic semi-final at the 2005 Australian Open, with the American scraping home in a 2-6, 7-5, 8-6 thriller.

"Maria is a super-intense player. She is an intense and focused player. She was world number one and has won so many Grand Slams for a reason," said Williams.

"Playing someone like that you have to play with fire and intensity. I've been playing all week aggressive but I didn't start out that way."

On a scorching hot day, the sluggish 34-year-old American, gunning for a seventh Australian title, served first and stuttered immediately with the fifth seed breaking when Williams sent a backhand long.

Williams, the oldest world number one in WTA history, is often a slow starter and Sharapova made the most of it to hold for a 2-0 lead as the top seed made a string of errors.

But Williams soon got on the scoreboard as her power serve found its range and her game started coming together. She broke back to make it level-pegging at 2-2 as the Russian's serve faltered.

The errors were now mounting from 2008 champion Sharapova, who cooled herself down with ice towels at the changeover after Williams went 3-2 in front.

In contrast, the aces were starting to fly off the Williams racquet as she held for 3-3.

Sharapova's first-serve percentage was falling and she went 0-40 down in the seventh game before showing grit to fend off the break points and claw back.

It was a tight battle and the Russian had two break points herself in the next game, with Williams showing emotion for the first time, screaming "Yes" and pumping her fist as she held on for 5-4.

It proved to be vital as she came through a titanic 10th game with a volley on her fourth set point, finally winning the set after a brutal 55 minutes.

Williams, who only lost three matches in 56 last season, called the trainer out, apparently feeling unwell, but she soldiered on and took control with an early break in the second set, wrong-footing Sharapova with a blistering backhand.

Sharapova was wilting and the double fault count was rising with Williams taking another break to lead 4-0. Sensing victory, she kept her foot to the floor and turned the contest into a rout.  

Williams won three majors - the Australian and French Opens and Wimbledon - last year, which took her to within one of Graf's long-time record of 22.

Mauling

Fired-up fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska blasted into her fifth career Grand Slam semi-final Tuesday with a dominant straight-sets mauling of Carla Suarez at the Australian Open.

The Spanish 10th seed was no match for the popular and composed Pole whose never-say-die attitude helped her dictate the physical encounter and romp home 6-1, 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena.

It is the 26-year-old's second semi at Melbourne Park and she will play either world number one Serena Williams or fifth seed and former champion Maria Sharapova for a place in the final.

That pair take to the court later Tuesday, with Williams holding an ominous 17-0 record over the Russian dating back to 2004.

"I'm very very pleased, I knew it would be tough because she is solid, like all Spanish players," said Radwanska.

"I tried to be aggressive and focused on my serve. I think I did a good job. I'm happy to be playing my best tennis every match."

Radwanska, who is now on a 13-match win streak, including the Shenzhen Open title this month, had rallied back from the brink of defeat in the fourth round, but it was far easier on Tuesday.

Both wearing pink, Radwanska coolly took an early advantage when Suarez hit a double fault to hand her a break point. A deep service return saw the Spaniard scoop a forehand wide to allow the Pole to go 1-0 up.

Ahead of the match Suarez said she was familiar with Radwanska's tactics, but she had trouble reading them under the blazing sun as the Pole pushed her around the court.

The fourth seed comfortably held then broke again as the usually resourceful Suarez, 27, sent a loose backhand long to be in full control.

The Spaniard finally got off the mark by holding serve to stay in touch a 1-4 down but with the sweat pouring off Suarez, Radwanska kept calm to break again and romp to the set in just 24 minutes.

She was on a mission and at the start of the second set, she easily held serve before breaking again with the match in danger of becoming a one-sided affair.

But Suarez broke back in the third game, reviving memories of her fourth round clash when she rallied from losing the first set against Daria Gavrilova 6-0 to fight back and win the match.

It was short-lived with Radwanska bouncing straight back to break again but the momentum kept shifting as they traded breaks.

The Spaniard managed to hold on during a long sixth game but Radwanska grabbed the decisive break to storm 5-3 in front and served out for the match.

Suarez was bidding to make her first Grand Slam semi on her 29th attempt, and despite defeat her exploits are expected to see her return to the top 10. She is currently ranked 11.

Radwanska also had plenty of reasons to keep her run going, with her progression to the semis expected to see her move above Garbine Muguruza to world number three when the rankings come out next week.

The composed Pole, who shows few emotions on court, won the biggest title of her career at the WTA Finals in Singapore last year, with an even bigger one now up for grabs in Melbourne.

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