Saturday 30 Jan 2016
Serena Williams is on course to match Steffi Graf's major haul in the Australian Open on Saturday, but German seventh seed Angelique Kerber will be hoping she can prevent the American from emulating her idol while carving her own piece of history.
The 34-year-old world number one is a raging hot favourite to beat the first-time finalist on Rod Laver Arena, a victory that would move the American to 22 grand slam singles titles, the same as Graf and a record for the Open era.
Australia's Margaret Court holds the overall record with 24.
Williams had the opportunity to join Graf last year at the U.S. Open, victory at which would have also given her a calendar year grand slam, the first since Graf in 1988.
Italy's Roberta Vinci, however, knocked out the world number one in the semi-finals, which also ended the American's year as she took a few months off to recover from injuries and deal with the mental anguish of having missed the calendar grand slam.
That loss in New York has obviously resonated in her preparations for Melbourne Park, where she has appeared completely focussed since a testing first round clash with Italy's Camila Giorgi.
She has not dropped a set at all and conceded just 17 games since the Giorgi clash and battered the five-times grand slam champion Maria Sharapova 6-4 6-1 in the quarter-finals and fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0 6-4 in the semi-finals.
Both Sharapova and Radwanska said afterwards they felt that Williams was playing at a level above everyone else.
"I would say this is probably the best slam I've played in a year, and I've won a lot in a year," Williams told reporters on Friday. "Even if I don't win, I really can take away that I've been really consistent and I want to continue that."
Williams and Kerber have met six times, with the American winning five, though Kerber's 6-4 6-4 victory in Cincinnati in 2012 was one she would not forget.
"I thought she played unbelievable in that match," Williams said. "I think from then on out I've been really focussed that she's someone that I, and everyone, has to take very seriously."
Kerber, who saved a match point in her first round clash with Japan's Misaki Doi, will enter her first grand slam final with immense confidence, believing a 'nothing to lose' attitude had got her this far.
It was that attitude that helped her overturn a 2-5 second set deficit in her quarter-final against Victoria Azarenka and gave her a first win over the Belarusian in their seventh match.
"'Nothing to lose' means I can go out there and try to play like I'm playing, without pressure," the 28-year-old said. "I think most will say, 'okay, Serena will win'.
"But I don't have so much pressure like she has. I know I can lose the match. That's why I'm going out there to try to win it."
Kerber's confidence comes from four years of consistent play, in which she has consolidated a top-10 ranking, won seven tournaments and made the WTA Finals three times.
She will be ranked a career-best fourth by the end of the tournament, and could be two if she becomes the first German to clinch a major since Graf won the last of her slams at Roland Garros in 1999.
"I think I grow in the last few years to be a top-10 player," she said.
"Now I'm back in the top five. I think I showed everybody that I deserve it. That's a good feeling."
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)
Friday 29 Jan 2016
Thursday 28 Jan 2016
Agnieszka Radwanska says there's no one in women's tennis that can lay a glove on Serena Williams in her current form
Give Serena Williams the Australian Open trophy now, because beaten semi-finalist Agnieszka Radwanska says no one can beat her.
Not if Williams maintains the form she reached on Thursday in swatting aside the world No.4 in straight sets.
"I don't think anyone can really play on that kind of level at all," Radwanska said.
"If she's playing her game, it's different level.
"She goes on court and she just wants to kill it. Going like full power for everything.
"When you serve 190 (km/h) wide, I don't know who's going to take that. Definitely not me."
After 64 minutes, Williams won her way into a seventh Australian Open final with a 6-0 6-4 victory.
The brutality of Williams' first set took even Melbourne Park veterans by surprise.
The American hit 18 winners in the bagel, all won without a single deuce.
Williams wasn't playing a nobody.
This was against the fourth seed, who came into the Australian Open with four titles since Williams last played a match.
The Pole claimed the WTA Finals and another three tournaments in Williams' four-month sabbatical between the US Open and the Australian Open.
But she was powerless to stop Williams in her relentless run to a 22nd major title.
Radwanska agreed that Williams' first set was as close to tennis perfection as she had ever seen.
"There was just no mistake," she said.
"Unbelievable serve. Everything, she was going for it.
"I couldn't do much. Not at all, actually."
Radwanska, set to improve her ranking to world No.3 after a run to the last four, said she would be grabbing the popcorn on Saturday night in anticipation of a great show.
"I'm not even angry because I know she was just playing too good today," she said.
"I'm just going to watch the final."
Every time the American has made the final at Melbourne Park she has gone on to win the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.
Victory in Saturday's final against either seventh seed Angelique Kerber or unseeded Briton Johanna Konta, would give her a 22nd grand slam title, moving her to a tie with Steffi Graf for the most in the Open era.
Williams romped through the first set in just 20 minutes before Radwanska showed some fight in the second but she was unable to stop the momentum of the American, who clinched her place in the final in 64 minutes.
"I'm really excited to be in another final. It blows my mind right now," Williams said in a courtside interview. "I just feel like I'm being the best I can and I can't believe I'm in another final.
"She started really well in the second set and making some great shots and hitting it deep and I just thought that I had to be aggressive."
Williams began in ominous fashion breaking the Pole's serve in the first game with Radwanska's lack of power highlighted by the blistering nature of the American's returns.
Radwanska's fastest serve in the first game reached just 140 kph. Williams was returning the ball at over 130.
The fourth seed appeared resigned to defeat in the first set by the fourth game. She barely got a backhand return to a Williams serve then stood, with slumping shoulders, and watched as the 34-year-old put the overhead smash away.
Williams cleaned up the first set in just 20 minutes before Radwanska elicited the largest cheer of the match at that time when she held serve in the first game of the second set, avoiding an embarrassing potential 'double bagel' 6-0 6-0 score.
The crowd on Rod Laver Arena, which had its roof closed due to heavy rain in Melbourne, however managed to almost open it in the sixth game with a decibel-rising roar of support for Radwanska when she broke Williams to level it at 3-3.
Williams, however, broke again in the ninth game and then served out with three aces to seal a match in which she belted 42 winners to Radwanska's four.
Radwanska, who had been bidding to reach her second grand slam final after Wimbledon in 2012, also heavily lost her only other semi-final appearance at Melbourne Park when she was beaten 6-1 6-2 by Dominika Cibulkova in 2014.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)
Dominant Serena Williams has needed just 64 minutes to end the challenge of fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska and advance to the Australian Open women's final.
The 6-0 6-4 win on Thursday sent the world No.1 into her seventh Australian Open decider, with the previous six having all ending in victories, including last year against Maria Sharapova.
But this is the first time she has ever won her first six matches at Melbourne Park without dropping a single set.
Williams completely dominated the winners' count 42-4 against Radwanska, whose record against the American now sits at a sorry 0-9.
Williams will play either No.7 seed Angelique Kerber from Germany or unseeded Australian-born Brit Johanna Konta in the title decider on Saturday night.
"I'm really excited to be in another final - it kind of blows my mind right now," said the 34-year-old.
"I feel I'm playing the best I can."
Williams had dropped only 22 games in the previous five rounds, the most competitive of which was her opening 6-4 7-5 victory over Italian Camila Giorgi - which was her first competitive match since the 2015 US Open in September.
"Physically I'm feeling a lot better," she said.
"Mentally I needed that break after the Open.
"I just feel so good."
The first set against Radwanska was done and dusted in 20 minutes, with Williams breaking her opponent's serve three times and holding her own with ease to win it 6-0.
The No.4 seed from Poland finally got on the board by holding serve in the opening game of the second set.
The second set was a much more competitive affair before Williams made the decisive break in the ninth game.
The 21-times grand slam champion then held to love to close the match out, winning the last eight points on the trot.
"She started playing really well in the second set," said Williams.
"She was making a lot of great shots.
"I was like, I have to figure out something and I started playing aggressive again.
"I went back to what I was doing all week and it worked out OK."