MELBOURNE • Serena Williams beat Maria Sharapova for an 18th straight time despite a bout of food poisoning yesterday to set up an Australian Open semi-final against Agnieszka Radwanska, who has never defeated the American.
The six-time Melbourne Park champion's 6-4, 6-1 win heaped more misery on her long-time rival, with the Russian stretching her demoralising winless run against the American great to 12 years.
With Sharapova again swatted aside, the world No. 1 now has the composed Pole in her sights. The signs are not good for Radwanska, despite her convincing 6-1, 6-3 win over Spanish 10th seed Carla Suarez Navarro at the Rod Laver Arena.
While her record against Williams is not yet on the scale of Sharapova, it is still dismal. They have played eight times since 2008, with Radwanska losing the lot, taking just one set along the way.
Another ominous fact facing the Pole is that every time Williams has got past the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park, she has gone on to win the tournament.
DAY 9 RESULTS
Men's q-finals: Roger Federer (Sui) bt Tomas Berdych (Cze) 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 6-4, Novak Djokovic (Srb) bt Kei Nishikori (Jpn) 6-3 6-2 6-4.
Women's q-finals: Agnieszka Radwanska (Pol) bt Carla Suarez Navarro (Esp) 6-1 6-3, Serena Williams (USA) bt Maria Sharapova (Rus) 6-4 6-1.
Moreover, the American did not even need to be at 100 per cent to send Sharapova packing in 1hr 32min. She called the trainer out at the changeover after a tight first set, revealing later she had some "food-poisoning issues". Yet she soldiered on and took control with an early break in the second set.
The Russian began wilting on a scorching hot day and Williams kept her foot on the accelerator and turned the contest into a rout.
"When I play her, I know automatically I have to step up my game," said the American, who hit 31 winners - 20 more than Sharapova.
"I think that makes me play better. When I'm forced to play better, I do well."
Sharapova said she was inspired as well as frustrated after her latest defeat.
"It's motivating because she's at a different level," admitted the world No. 5, who fired 21 aces in her fourth-round match but managed just seven against Williams.
"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."
Radwanska would certainly like to think that she has learnt from her past defeats by the 34-year-old. Publicly, she has let it be known that she does not mind another meeting with the 21-time Grand Slam champion.
"I have nothing to lose and it does not matter who I play. Hopefully I can play my best tennis or I'll be in trouble," said the Pole.
"Experience is very important in tennis. I'm happy to have that and I'll be ready for the semi."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Q-finals: Singtel TV Ch114 & StarHub Ch208, 8am & 4.30pm