Serena Williams put on a vintage performance to make it through to the Australian Open semi-finals where she set up a blockbuster clash against Naomi Osaka.
Williams made it through to her 40th Grand Slam semi-final after gaining revenge for her Wimbledon final loss to Simona Halep.
Halep produced a sensational performance to stun Williams 6-2 6-2 at the All England Club in 2019 – one of four Grand Slam finals the American has lost since winning her 23rd singles title in Melbourne four years ago.
Williams began this match with a determination to ensure there was no repeat and powered her way to a 6-3 6-3 victory.
Williams, who mixed 24 winners with 33 unforced errors over the contest, has not won a major since her seventh Australian Open triumph in 2017 and next faces in-form Japanese third seed Naomi Osaka with a place in the final on the line.
In her on-court interview, Williams said: “I definitely think this is the best match this tournament and obviously I had to go up against the number two in the world. I knew that I had to do better and that’s what I did, so I’m excited.”
The quality of the second set did not match the first, with Williams making a host of unforced errors, but Halep could not take advantage.
Osaka will not be so generous in what will be a first Grand Slam meeting between the pair since their notorious US Open final in 2018, when Williams received a game penalty for verbally abusing umpire Carlos Ramos and Osaka’s first major title was accompanied by deafening boos and whistles.
Since then the Japanese player has won two more major titles and is unbeaten on the biggest stage since last year’s Australian Open.
Most Grand Slam semi-final appearances in the Open Era
52 – Chris Evert
44 – Martina Navratilova
40 – Serena Williams
37 – Steffi Graf
Williams shot out of the blocks on Tuesday, moving into a 2-0 lead with a combination of extreme power and incredible angles.
Halep fought back to level but Williams forged ahead again and confidently served out the set.
The 39-year-old, who is once again two matches away from finally equalling Margaret Court’s record of 24 slam singles titles, made a shaky start to the second set, spraying unforced errors as Halep moved into a 3-1 lead.
But the Romanian was unable to find the level to put doubts into Williams’ mind and the 10th seed finished the match with a run of five games in a row.
Did you know…
Serena Williams at 39y 143d is the oldest player to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since Billie Jean King at Wimbledon in 1983.
Williams, who is through to the last four in Melbourne for the first time since winning the title in 2017, said: “I feel pretty good with that performance. I feel like I needed to have a good performance obviously today, especially after
my last match against her. So it was really important to try to play well today.
“I feel good. I’ve got to keep going. That’s obviously the goal. Obviously I have an incredible opponent to play, so it would be nice to hopefully keep raising the level of my game. I’m going to have to.
“I’m in the semi-final. That’s pretty awesome. So that’s exciting.”
For Halep, who reached the semi-finals last year and was losing finalist in 2018, it was back to the drawing board as she looks to add to her two Grand Slam titles at the French Open and Wimbledon.
The Romanian noticed the difference in Williams, saying: “She’s moving better and she hits strong the balls. I feel like she’s in a good shape now.
“My feeling after this match is that I was not that far, but also she was stronger in the important moments. I had 3-1 in the second set and the serve didn’t help me much. She was very powerful at the return.
“I’m not that disappointed about myself. Attitude maybe a little bit negative the whole tournament, but I’m going to work on this, and I will come back stronger.”