Serena Williams Reaches Fifth Australian Open Final

Serena Williams Reaches Fifth Australian Open Final MELBOURNE, Australia — Serena Williams has
advanced to a fifth Australian Open final and ended any chance of an
all-Chinese championship match in the season’s first major.

Defending champion Williams wasted four match
points before finishing off a 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-1) semifinal win with an
ace against Li Na on Thursday, a day after her sister Venus lost to the
Chinese player in the quarterfinals.

Serena Williams has a 100 percent conversion
rate so far in finals at Melbourne Park, winning the title every time
she’s played for the championship since beating Venus here in 2003. The
winning sequence has been every odd-numbered year so far.

“I had so many match points and I blew it and
I knew I couldn’t mess up my serve because she never gives up,”
Williams said. “She’s a real, real amazing fighter.”

China had two players into the semifinals of the same major for the first time.

Zheng Jie had another chance to become the
first Chinese player to reach a Grand Slam singles final when she took
on seven-time Grand Slam winner Justine Henin in the later semifinal.

Zheng reached the 2008 Wimbledon semifinals, just months after Henin retired from tennis while holding the No. 1 ranking.

Henin is unranked and two tournaments into a
comeback from 20 months off the tour, hoping to emulate fellow Belgian
Kim Clijsters
‘ win at the U.S. Open. Clijsters was only three
tournaments into a comeback from two years off, and playing on a wild
card entry, when she won the U.S. Open last September.

In the first semifinal, Williams broke Li’s service in the opening game and maintained the break until the 10th game.

Li fended off a set point in the ninth game
before holding, then broke Williams’ serve in the 10th game to even the
match at 5-5.

In the tiebreaker, Williams picked up four of
her last five points on unforced errors by Li and then clinched the
58-minute set with a second-service ace.

The second set went with serve, with Li
fending off three match points in the 10th game and another in the 12th
to force a second tiebreaker. Again, Williams dominated the tiebreaker
to race to a 6-1 lead, closing with her 12th ace of the match.

Venus Williams, who had a chance to serve for
the quarterfinal on Wednesday against Li before she lost, was watching
from the stands. She was to partner Serena later in a women’s doubles
semifinal against sixth-seeded pair Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs.

No. 5 Andy Murray and No. 14 Marin Cilic will
meet in a semifinal Thursday night after ousting the second- and
fourth-seeded players in the quarterfinals.

With Jo-Wilfried Tsonga taking out No. 3
Novak Djokovic late Wednesday night, there was nobody left in the draw
who has beaten Roger Federer in a major.

Murray was leading defending champion Rafael
Nadal
by two sets and a break when the Spaniard retired due to a knee
injury; Cilic beat U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro in five
sets.

Tsonga beat 2008 champion Djokovic 7-6 (10-8),
6-7 (5-7), 1-6, 6-3, 6-1, in a reverse of the outcome of their final here
two years ago, and will meet top-ranked Federer in a semifinal on
Friday.

Federer advanced to his 23rd consecutive
Grand Slam semifinal on Wednesday with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-0, 7-5 win over
No. 6 Nikolay Davydenko.

Davydenko’s 13-match winning streak was the
hottest on tour and included wins over Federer at the season-ending
championship in November and at Doha earlier this month.

The Russian unloaded everything he had on
Federer for a set and a half, until Federer’s big-match experience
kicked in, he switched gears and won 13 straight games to take the
match away from Davydenko.

Federer has made the semifinals or better at
every major since Wimbledon in 2004, a record he considers “definitely
one of the most incredible things I have in my resume.”

Before Federer, Ivan Lendl and Rod Laver shared the record at 10.

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