One of the top rivalries of the past decade in women’s tennis will write the latest chapter in its storied tale, as top seeds Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova cross paths once again to determine who will leave Melbourne as a Grand Slam champion. Of their 18 previous meetings on the tour, Williams dominates the head-to-head series against Sharapova 16-2, and holds a 15-match win streak against her Russian adversary.
The second semi-final on Thursday was the more competitive of the two women’s contests, as both the winner and the loser looked good by the time they came to exit the court. World No. 1 Serena Williams managed to weather the storm from Madison Keys and defeated the surging youngster in straight sets, but it was not without its difficult moments.
Keys saved eight match points before falling on the ninth attempt from Williams. It was a remarkable display of grit and determination from a player who had most of her leg bandaged. Williams, however, hit 13 aces, 19 winners, and won 73% of her first service points to eventually overcome her opponents in 1 hour and 24 minutes.
“I was a little frustrated at the end – I had so many match points and just couldn’t close it out, and that doesn’t usually happen,” Williams said. “But in retrospect, she was playing very well. She served so well. I’m a really big fan of hers. She’s so awesome, she’s so positive, just a great player.”
Earlier in the day, Maria Sharapova ousted Simona Halep-vanquisher Ekaterina Makarova with relative ease, 6-3, 6-2. Sharapova was in total command of the match from the get-go, as she stormed to a 3-0 lead to open the match, and even held a 4-0 lead in the second set.
Apart from a second round scare, Sharapova eased into her 10th Grand Slam final with little difficulty.
“It’s really special,” Sharapova said in her post-match interview. “You work really hard for these two weeks and fight through some tough matches, some tough situations, and you come from behind in some of them – for me really behind in one of them, saving two match points in the second round.”
This marks the 19th time that Williams and Sharapova will cross paths on the professional tour, with Williams leading the series with a dominant 16-2 record, as well as 15 consecutive victories dating back almost a decade. Sharapova is capable of toppling her biggest adversary, but it is more a matter of self-belief than it is about her physical inability to overcome the 18-time Grand Slam champion. This will likely be a match that goes three sets, but it is hard to imagine Sharapova edging out Williams on this very stage.
Prediction: Serena Williams in Three Sets
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