Melbourne, Australia (SportsNetwork.com) – Serena Williams and Maria
Sharapova will meet in the Australian Open final after both women cruised to
straight-set victories on Thursday.
Williams, looking to win her sixth Aussie Open title, took out fellow American
Madison Keys 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 to reach the final.
With the first set all tied at 5-5, Williams was on serve when Keys went up
30-15 in the game, but Williams took the next three points before Keys smashed
a backhand down the line to knot it up at 40-40. Williams ended up taking the
next two points to win the game, then Keys kept the back-and-forth affair
going with an ace to force a tiebreak.
Williams had set point, up 6-3, in the tiebreak when Keys fired two aces to
close within one, but Williams countered with an ace on her next serve to take
Williams pressured her opponent from the onset of the second set, taking the
first game and breaking Keys in the process. However, Keys maintained
composure and went up 40-15 in the next game, but Williams ended up grinding
her way back and taking the game. After the two maintained serve over the next
two games, Williams broke Keys again and eased her way to the finish.
This was the first career meeting between Williams and Keys.
The 33-yard-old Williams seeks her 19th grand slam championship and 65th
career title overall. She is 5-0 in Australian Open finals.
Williams, tied with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova for the second-most
women’s grand slam titles in the Open Era behind Steffi Graf’s 22, is 16-2
lifetime against Sharapova.
Sharapova reached her 10th career grand slam final after beating countrymate
Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets.
Sharapova, seeded No. 2 behind Williams, rolled to a 6-3, 6-2 win over the
10th-seeded Makarova in 87 minutes.
The 2008 Australian Open champion double-faulted seven times but fired 23
winners and three aces in the win.
She has won 22 of her last 23 matches against fellow Russians and improved to
6-0 lifetime against Makarova, including 3-0 at the Australian Open following
quarterfinals wins in 2012 and 2013.
Chasing her sixth grand slam title and 35th career win, the 27-year-old
Sharapova moved on to face the winner of Thursday’s all-American semifinal
between Williams and Madison Keyes.
Sharapova is 5-4 in grand slam finals, including 1-2 at the Australian Open.
Makarova, 26, made her second consecutive grand slam semifinal. She lost to
Williams at last year’s U.S. Open.