Serena Williams defeated Maria Sharapova for an 18th straight time on Tuesday to inflict more pain on her long-time Russian rival and power into the Australian Open semi-finals.
The six-time Melbourne Park champion and world number one out-muscled the fifth seed 6-4, 6-1 and will meet Agnieszka Radwanska for a place in the final as she moves closer to matching Steffi Graf’s Open-era Grand Slam record of 22 titles.
For the 28-year-old Russian five-time Grand Slam winner, her barren run against one of the greatest players ever remains intact.
“I feel like if it was five-all, the momentum would have been a little bit different than going into where she played a really great beginning of the second set,” said Sharapova.
“It’s obviously always frustrating,” she told reporters. “I mean, it’s motivating. It’s motivating because she’s at a different level. 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.”
Her winless streak dates back to 2004 when she last beat Williams in the Wimbledon final. Her downfall started in an epic semi-final at the 2005 Australian Open, with the American scraping home in a 2-6, 7-5, 8-6 thriller.
“Maria is a super-intense player. She is an intense and focused player. She was world number one and has won so many Grand Slams for a reason,” said Williams.
“Something about her game makes me play with fire and intensity”
”I like the way she hits the ball. Plus, when I play her, I know automatically I have to step up my game. I think that makes me play better. When I play better, when I’m forced to play better, I don’t know, I do well.”
The signs for Radwanska are ominous – every time the American has got past the quarter-final at Melbourne Park she has gone on to win the tournament, including last year when she also beat Sharapova.