Tallahassee Journal

Serena Williams sets up Aussie Open final with Maria Sharapova

Serena Williams sets up Aussie Open final with Maria Sharapova

Hollywood has made its way to the Australian Open. Thursday afternoon Serena Williams came through in her semifinal after rival Maria Sharapova had won hers, the two superstars setting up a blockbuster women’s final of world No. 1 vs. world No. 2, their first at a Grand Slam since the 2013 French Open and fourth overall. Serena denied 19-year-old American Madison Keys a shot at her first major title en route, overcoming the teenager in what was a dangerous encounter at the start – and finish. dm_120909_Serena_Williams_Victoria_Azarenka 

Williams had her hands full with Keys, this tournament’s breakout star who had beaten Petra Kvitova and Venus Williams on her way to the final four and was this far in a major for the first time. Williams needed nine match points to come through, finishing off the first all-American major semifinal in nearly 13 years with a second-serve ace.

Serena is into her 23rd career Grand Slam final, bringing a stellar 18-4 record in at this stage. Sharapova, meanwhile, is a tepid 5-4, including 1-2 against Serena. Williams, with the win, holds on to her No. 1 ranking that was in jeopardy on Thursday, while Sharapova will keep her position at No. 2. Williams heads into the final as the big favorite, winning 16 of 18 matches they’ve played, including the last 15. In fact, Sharapova hasn’t won against Williams since the fall of 2004, including a semifinal here 10 years ago in which she had three match points. Williams will go for her 19th Grand Slam; Sharapova her sixth.

Keys’ lead wouldn’t last long, however, as Williams broke back after being down 3-1. The players would trade holds from there, forcing a first-set tiebreak. It was there that Williams would up her intensity, the 33-year-old encouraging herself with belts of “Come on!” as she went up 6-3. Keys won the next two points, but Williams sealed the set in 44 minutes with an ace.

The veteran American jumped ahead in set two, overwhelming Keys with her consistent play and equal force. At 5-1 down the teenager served to stay in the match in what turned out to be the most entertaining game of the day’s two matches, Keys saving seven match points, including with a pair of aces and booming winners from the ground. Keys would hold before Williams won on her ninth chance in the next game, that second serve ace – her 13th of the match – sending her into the final.

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