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Dominant Serena advances to seventh Australian Open final

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 28: Serena Williams of the United States plays a backhand in her semi final match against Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland during day 11 of the 2016 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 28, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
January 28, 2016 12:59 PM

By Ashley Marshall, USTA.com

Serena Williams has lifted the Australian Open trophy six times before, but there’s an argument to be made that, at age 34, she’s playing better than ever on the hard blue courts of Melbourne Park.

The world No. 1 rolled into Saturday’s final on Thursday night, systematically dispatching fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-0, 6-4, in a ruthless semifinal display of power and precision.

Williams’ victory sets up a winner-takes-all showdown with No. 7 Angelique Kerber of Germany, who ended the storybook run of Aussie-born Brit Johanna Konta, 7-5, 6-2, later Thursday evening.

Williams is a perfect 6-0 in championship matches Down Under, celebrating inside Rod Laver Arena in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2015. In fact, every time she has advanced past the quarterfinal stage, she has gone on the win the tournament, one of three Grand Slam women’s singles events she has captured six times (all but Roland Garros).

But Williams’ run to the 2016 final seems different and, as implausible as it may seem, better than in any other year. Her most recent run marks the first time she has reached the Australian Open final without dropping a set.

Her fiercest test came on the first day of competition when she beat Italian Camila Giorgi, the highest-ranked unseeded player in the draw, 6-4, 7-5. In the five matches that followed, Williams dropped just 17 total games, including five in a straight-sets quarterfinal domination of No. 5 seed and 2008 Australian Open champion Maria Sharapova.

Nowhere was Williams’ advantage over the field been more clear than in the first set of Thursday’s semifinal against Radwanska, arguably the hottest player on the WTA tour since the US Open. The Pole has won more titles (four) and more matches (27) than any other player over the past four months, but despite playing well enough over the last two weeks  to see her climb to No. 3 in the world when the new rankings are released on Monday, she had no answer to Williams.

Williams hit 18 winners to Radwanska’s one in a 20-minute opening salvo, breaking the 26-year-old three consecutive times and conceding just seven total points. Williams’ consistency lapsed in the second set as Radwanska played herself into the match, but Williams, who improved to 9-0 lifetime against Radwanska, earned a key break at 4-4 before serving out the match at the first attempt.

Now the American will play for her seventh Australian Open championship. She already holds the record for the most Australian Open titles in the Open era, but another win would move her into sole possession of the second-most all-time, behind only Margaret Court, who won 11 between 1960 and 1973.

A victory would also give Williams 22 Grand Slam women’s singles titles, tying Steffi Graf for the most in the Open era and leaving her two short of Court’s all-time mark of 24. Should Williams lift the trophy and then continue her winning ways over the spring and summer, it’s plausible that she could match or even pass Court’s mark at the US Open in September.

Kerber, 28, has won just one of her past six meetings with Williams, last beating the defending champion in the 2012 Cincinnati quarterfinals. Since that victory, Williams has won all eight sets they have contested, including at the WTA Championships in Istanbul, Turkey in 2012 and 2013, in the round of eight in Miami in 2014 and in the Stanford final later that summer.


Editor's Note: Kerber edged Serena in the women's singles final, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.