Serena Williams ended the fairy tale run of Madison Keys on Tuesday at the Australian Open. Now she will play the wicked stepmother in an attempt to give Maria Sharapova another beating in their lopsided career rivalry.
The world No. 1 Williams held back the future, turning back the huge-serving fellow American Keys 7-6(5), 6-2, matching the explosive Keys ace for ace to gain the first set.
“I was just happy to get through it today,” Williams said. “And I think I was able to serve big when I needed to. So that really helped me out a lot. She hits a very, very hard ball, but she also hits it very deep. So it’s a little different trying to prepare for that. So I wasn’t ready really for that.”
Keys said she was pleased with her performance and ability to compete with a leg wrap to assist with an adductor strain.
“I think I handled the moment pretty well,” she said. “I definitely had a good start, so nerves didn’t totally play into that. I thought I handled myself pretty well in that last serving game of mine. But she played really well. She served really well. It was pretty much impossible for me to break her serve. So great job to her today.”
In the final Williams will meet world No. 2 Maria Sharapova, who continued her dominance over fellow Russian and No. 10 seed Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-2.
Sharapova pummeled the ball against Makarova, who seemingly had no Plan B against the former No. 1, going down in a flurry of Sharapova winners.
Reminded by the media that Serena will be likely shaking off remnants of illness and/or injury entering the final, Sharapova said her 2-16 career record against the No. 1 should not matter.
“I think my confidence should be pretty high going into a final of a Grand Slam no matter who I’m facing against and whether I’ve had a terrible record, to say the least, against someone,” she said. “It doesn’t matter. I got there for a reason. I belong in that spot. I will do everything I can to get the title.”
Sharapova has lost 15 times in a row against Williams, last year at Brisbane and Miami, and has not won a set off Williams since 2013 Miami. She last beat Williams at the 2004 WTA championships.
In the lone men’s semifinal ending late on Thursday, No. 6-seeded Andy Murray came from a set down to wear down No. 7 Tomas Berdych 6-7(6), 6-0, 6-3, 7-5.
“There was a little bit of extra tension — it was a big match,” Murray said. “A lot was made about Dani Vallverdu, my former coach, working with Tomas. But we’ve been friends since we were 15 years old and I felt that the focus was unfair and unnecessary. This is sport — and there’s more to life than sport. It created a bit of extra tension but everyone calmed down after start of the match.”
The Scot’s three-hour, 26-minute win puts him in his fourth career Australian Open final (0-3 in finals) where he will meet the winner of the Friday semifinal featuring top seed Novak Djokovic versus defending champion Stan Wawrinka.
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