Melbourne - World No 1 Serena Williams destroyed Maria Sharapova for an 18th
straight time on 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
The signs for Radwanska are ominous – every time the American has got
past the quarterfinal 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 semifinal 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 No 1 and has won so many Grand Slams for a reason," said
"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 No 1 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 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
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
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.