Tennis: Serena aims to match Graf's record

Serena Williams celebrating after winning her Australian Open semi-final 6-0, 6-4 against Agnieszka Radwanska. She will meet Angelique Kerber in the final.
Serena Williams celebrating after winning her Australian Open semi-final 6-0, 6-4 against Agnieszka Radwanska. She will meet Angelique Kerber in the final. PHOTO: REUTERS

MELBOURNE • An imperious Serena Williams set up a crack at her seventh Australian Open title yesterday by trampling Agnieszka Radwanska, with only Angelique Kerber now capable of stopping her equalling Steffi Graf's Open-era record of 22 Grand Slam triumphs.

The dominant top seed was in inspirational form as she pummelled the Pole 6-0, 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena, with the stunned fourth seed calling the opening set the best tennis she had ever faced.

It set Williams up for a 26th Grand Slam final as she zeroes in on a bid to match's Graf's record.

Margaret Court holds the all-time record of 24 Grand Slam wins.

Germany's Kerber, the seventh seed, earned her right to face Williams by beating unseeded Briton Johanna Konta 7-5, 6-2 to sweep into her maiden Grand Slam final.

It marked the first time a German has reached the final at Melbourne Park since Anke Huber in 1996, but Kerber faces a huge task with the American powerhouse across the net in tomorrow's decider.

Williams, 34, has a 5-1 win record against Kerber but she is not underestimating the threat she faces.

"She took out a really tough opponent in Victoria," the American said of Kerber's quarter-final ousting of two-time champion Victoria Azarenka. "You can't underestimate Kerber. She's beaten me before, too.

"Her being lefty definitely helps out as well. I haven't played any lefties yet. But we'll see. I think it will be a really good match. It definitely won't be easy."

Against Radwanska, the top seed was untouchable and Williams will go into the decider knowing that of her previous 25 Grand Slam finals, she has won 21.

The Pole admitted that she was left in awe after seeing her 13-match win streak emphatically halted by the Williams juggernaut.

"I think she started unbelievable, with such power and speed. I was just standing there kind of watching her playing," said Radwanska.

"There was just no mistake. Unbelievable serve. Everything, she was going for it. Yeah, I couldn't do much. Not at all, actually."

Williams crushed Maria Sharapova in the quarter-finals and dished out the same treatment to the in-form fourth seed, who won the WTA Finals late last season and this month's Shenzhen Open.

Kerber, buoyed by a new-found self-belief inspired by fellow German Graf, was too strong for Konta, who was playing her first Australian Open main draw and first Grand Slam semi-final.

"It's a really special moment. I reach the final for the first time," Kerber said.

Knowing the task now awaiting her is vast, she added: "I'm really looking forward to playing against Serena and taking this challenge. I must play my best tennis."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2016, with the headline 'Serena aims to match Graf's record'. Print Edition | Subscribe