Serena Williams powers past Maria Sharapova into Australian Open semis
Catch up on all of the action, news and results from the first day of quarterfinals matches at the 2016 Australian Open on Tuesday that you may have missed while you were sleeping.
Sharapova still can't find solution to Serena problem
When the draw came out before the tournament, everyone wondered if No. 5 Maria Sharapova would land in No. 1 Serena Williams’s quarter due to her rankings drop. It happened, and on Tuesday, so did the projected quarterfinals matchup between the two familiar foes—their 21st career meeting, dating back more than a decade to 2004. The projected result also ensued.
Serena defeated Sharapova 6–4, 6–1 in their quarterfinals match on Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday, marking the 18th-straight time the American and World No. 1 has prevailed over her Russian rival.
Despite the scoreline, the match was a battle from the start. After three quick unforced errors from Serena, Sharapova broke her to start the match and finished the second game with her first ace of the match to go up 2–0 in the opening set. But back-to-back double faults gave Serena the break point to tie the game at 2–2.
The key turning point in the match came at 4–4, where Sharapova had two break point chances for the chance to serve out the first set but Serena held on to go up 5–4. Sharapova remain resilient, saving three set points with a two big second serves and a forehand into the net from Serena, before finally losing the fourth break point. Serena took the first set 6–4 in 55 minutes, longer than her previous two matches in Melbourne.
From that point, the No. 1 found her groove and cruised through the second set to close out the match and extend her career record against Sharapova to 19–2, 7–1 at Grand Slams.
"It's obviously always frustrating," Sharapova said of her head-to-head history against Serena. "It's motivating because she's at a different level. She makes you go back to the drawing board, not just for me, but for many other players. She makes you work. That's inspiring."
Heading into the match, Sharapova was serving strong—she fired 52 aces through four matches—and knew it was going to be a critical part of the match against Serena. Sharapova finished with three aces and seven double faults on the match, while Serena fired 13 aces and four double faults.
"I think if you're serving maybe 180 against somebody else compared to Serena, that's an ace," Sharapova said after the match when asked about her serves. "Against Serena, as we all know, the return is one of her great strengths. She's very explosive. She stays quite close to the baseline. She cuts the ball early. She doesn't give you many angles. That's the reason I can't get so many free points against her.?
Serena’s bid for a seventh Australian Open title will continue on Thursday when she takes on No. 4-seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who is into her second career semifinal in Melbourne after taking out No. 10-seed Carla Suarez Navarro 6–1, 6–3 in the first quarterfinals match on Tuesday.
“Yesterday and the day before I don't sleep as much as I want. I didn't rest good. You know, I feel tired,” Suarez Navarro said after the match. “Today I don't have the good feeling to play good tennis, the good mentality to play more aggressive or try to play a little bit better than I play. But I have to learn about these situations, this match, this experience. I need to learn.”
Radwanska has now made the semifinals or better at a Slam the last five years and is coming off a win at the WTA Finals in 2015 and at the Shenzhen Open at the beginning of this season. She says those titles have given her a little bit of extra confidence in Melbourne.
“On the hindsight, yes, especially that you playing there only against top players, and that give me always more confidence,” Radwanska said of her WTA Finals title. “But I was saying before, this is new season, new Grand Slam; you're starting over again.”
Radwanska, who made the semifinals in Melbourne in 2014, will look to make her second career Grand Slam final against Serena on Thursday.
This post will be updated.