Wednesday, January 28, 2015 8:44 am
American top seed Serena Williams bludgeoned into the Australian Open last four Wednesday, destroying last year’s finalist Dominika Cibulkova in straight sets as she zeroes in on a 19th Grand Slam crown.
Fired-up after seeing sister Venus lose her quarter-final clash, Williams stomped out and proceeded to club Cibulkova 6-2, 6-2, cannoning down 15 aces and blasting 31 winners in a merciless display.
The emphatic win sets up a clash with Venus’ conqueror, unseeded American teenager Madison Keys, in Williams’ sixth career semi-final at Melbourne Park.
The 33-year-old has gone on to win the title every other time she has reached the last four in Australia, although her last triumph came in 2010 and the years since have been mediocre by her exacting standards.
“It’s finally good to get past the quarter-finals or the fourth round,” she said.
“I forgot what it’s like … gosh, it’s been so long.”
Williams was in no mood to hang around as she battles a cold, peppering the so-called “pocket rocket” Cibulkova with missiles of her own, including a 199 kph (124 mph) scorcher.
“I played well. I felt I had to,” Williams said, barely able to speak because of a virus, which she said had not affected her game.
“I feel like when you’re going up against a player like that who is confident on the court — she just had a few good matches — I knew that I needed to really play well or go home.”
Cibulkova, 25, who was on a high after downing two-time Australian champion Victoria Azarenka in the previous round, admitted: “I didn’t have a chance to play my game.
“When she has a day like this, it’s tough to play against her,” she added. “I tried to change something on return, but it didn’t work out. She just didn’t give me any time to breathe on the court today.”
– Sisterly advice –The world number one looked focused from the outset and avoided the sluggish starts that marred her earlier matches.
Cibulkova, who went into the match with a 4-0 losing record against Williams, began nervously with two double faults in the opening game, managing to cling on to hold serve.
But Williams effortlessly broke Cibulkova in the second and fourth games, pouncing on the Slovak’s weak second serve and giving her opponent no chances during her own service games.
She cracked down eight aces in the first set, including three in the final game to go up 6-2 after 28 minutes.
The massacre continued in the second set, as Williams broke in the opening game and never looked back.
She said she would seek out Venus before contesting her 26th Grand Slam semi-final and ask for advice on handling Keys after her sister pushed the 19-year-old to three sets in their quarter-final.
“For sure I’ll ask her,” she said. “I’ll also ask my coach (Patrick Mouratouglou), who has been steering me these last two weeks. I’m really excited to be in the semis.”
In the earlier quarter-final match, Venus had crashed out, losing to fellow American, 19 year old Madison Keys in three tight sets, 3-6, 6-4, 4-6.
The 34-year-old American became the oldest Grand Slam quarter-finalist in 25 years.
Williams, seeded 18, admitted she lost focus when Keys took a lengthy medical time out but refused to blame it for the defeat, saying she simply made too many errors.
“It’s within the rules. If you don’t feel well, you need an injury timeout,” she said.
“I guess that’s what happened with her. I’ve had them before as well. I don’t really have any complaints about that rule. You have to give credit where credit is due, she played really well.”
Williams, who went into the match with a 9-0 record for 2015, said there were plenty of positives to take from the match, which was her first Grand Slam quarter-final since 2010.
“It’s a great start. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep this level up,” said the American, who was diagnosed with the energy-sapping Sjogren’s Syndrome in 2011.
Her comeback this year means her ranking is set to move up from 18 to 11 or 12 after the tournament.
Her run included winning the Auckland Classic warm-up event and three back-to-back three setters at Melbourne Park, a workload that would have been unthinkable in recent years.