Australian Open Tennis Ladies final
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After holding on to win the tough first set against 19-year-old Madison Keys, prompting the early celebrations, the 18-time Grand Slam champion dominated the second set in a 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory to move into an Australian Open final against second-seeded Maria Sharapova.
- Serena Williams takes a 15-match winning streak against Maria Sharapova into the Australian Open final. But this is sport. And anything can happen. Right?
- Despite a loss to Serena Williams, the young American Madison Keys looks like a player destined for great things.
- Only Maria Sharapova stands between Serena Williams and her 19th major title. We look back at Serena's 18 Grand Slam triumphs ahead of Saturday's Australian Open final.
It's the first time since 2004 that the top two seeds will meet in the women's final at Melbourne Park.
The 33-year-old Williams will be the oldest player to reach the Australian Open final in the Open era. She won each of the previous five Aussie Open title matches she played in.
Williams, who has been struggling with a cold for a week, said she'd recover from a tough workout in the all-American semifinal against Keys, who pounded her with heavy groundstrokes and a big serve for the first set.
"She pushed me really hard the first set ... and I had to really dig deep mentally to get through that, " Williams said. "It was a little frustrating. I had like nine or 10 match points and couldn't close it out. That doesn't happen so much. She played like she didn't have anything to lose."
Keys, playing in her first Grand Slam semifinal, saved seven match points on serve in a penultimate game that lasted more than 11 minutes. Williams kept her cool, though, wasting one match point on her serve before closing with an ace to reach her 23rd major final.
Williams was at her best after dropping her opening service game, finishing the match with just one double-fault, firing 13 aces and defending when she needed to defend.
Maria Sharapova has beaten Serena Williams only twice in 18 meetings. MAL FAIRCLOUGH/AFP/Getty Images
Keys, who beat fourth-seeded and Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the third round and Venus Williams in the quarterfinals, had control until she was broken in the sixth game.
She held in the 12th game, closing with an ace to force a tiebreaker, but quickly fell behind 4-1 with Serena firing two aces. She saved two set points with aces but had no chance of extending the tiebreaker when Williams hit another unreturnable serve, and started jumping for joy.
Williams broke early in the second set and raced to a 5-1 lead before Keys held, temporarily denying victory for the woman who inspired her to take up tennis.
Until now, Keys had never made it past the third round of a major. But the Australian Open marked many firsts for the American teen.
"Did I think it was going to happen here? Not particularly. But I'm very happy it did, " said Keys, who won over many fans with her sense of humor and big smile
"This week has definitely shown me that I can play the top players, and I can do well against them. I can play the No. 1 player in the world in a pretty close match."
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