Friday, November 24, 2017
Sports

Serena continues to give Sharapova no quarter

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Serena Williams attacked Maria Sharapova's strength, and it helped extend her complete domination of their rivalry, earning the six-time Australian Open champion a place in the semifinals.

Top-ranked Williams beat Sharapova 6-4, 6-1 today in the quarterfinals, her 18th straight victory in the rivalry and 19th in 21 career meetings back to 2004.

"It was super intense," Williams said of the replay of last year's final. Sharapova is "an incredibly intense, focused player who was No. 1 and has won so many Grand Slams for a reason.

"You have to come out with a lot of fire and intensity."

Each of the six previous times Williams has won a quarterfinal at Melbourne Park, she has won the title at the season-opening Grand Slam tournament.

Up next is fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat No. 10 Carla Suarez Navarro 6-1, 6-3 to reach a Grand Slam semifinal for the fifth time. She has never won a major.

Sharapova has won five majors, including the 2008 Australian title, and has been in three other finals at Melbourne Park.

In her fourth-round win against No. 12 Belinda Bencic, she had a career-high 21 aces. Against Williams, she had three, and seven double faults.

Sharapova broke to open the match and held for a 2-0 lead.

But Williams held in the third game, closing with an ace after it went to deuce, then broke to level at 2-2.

Early in the set, points were short. As it got longer, the rallies got longer, the shrieks and grunts got louder and the emotions were fully on display.

Both players struggled with their ball toss at one end, repeatedly practicing their toss to work out the best position to serve into the sun.

Williams also had to concentrate hard to hold in the ninth game, when a baby screamed loudly for most of the game.

She was able to protect her own serve and go on the attack against Sharapova's. It cost her when she had three break-point chances in the eighth, taking the high-risk rather than the high-percentage option with her return.

But the aggressive returns finally helped Williams convert on her fourth set point, following a heavy ground stroke to the net and putting away a volley.

She went on a five-game roll until Sharapova held in the second set then finished it off in the seventh game after saving break points.

Earlier, Chinese qualifier Zhang Shuai advanced to the quarterfinals after beating a limping Madison Keys 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. She'll face another unseeded player, Johanna Konta of Britain.

On the men's side Monday, Andy Murray fought through churning emotions, yelling and berating himself while having trouble dealing with Bernard Tomic's unusual style before advancing to the quarterfinals with a scrappy 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) win.

Murray's wife, Kim, is due to have their first baby next month, and he promised he'd fly to Britain at any time if she went into labor.

On Saturday, his father-in-law, Nick Sears, in Melbourne as Ana Ivanovic's coach, needed sudden medical attention in a nearby stadium. Sears had to be taken from Rod Laver Arena, where he was watching Ivanovic play, to a nearby hospital and was admitted overnight.

Murray reported that he had been released from the hospital, was feeling okay and was heading home.

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