Serena maintains hex on Sharapova to reach semis
By Nick Mulvenney
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Reigning champion Serena Williams ramped up the power in the second set to vanquish fifth seed Maria Sharapova for the 18th match in a row and reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open with a 6-4 6-1 victory on Tuesday.
Sharapova broke the world number one in the first game and mounted a stiff challenge in the opening set but wilted in the second to extend a losing record that goes back 12 years.
Williams said the Russian brings out the best in her.
"When I play her, I know automatically I have to step up my game," Williams said. "I think that makes me play better. When I'm forced to play better, I do well."
The gulf between Williams and Sharapova, a former number one and five-times grand slam champion, speaks volumes about the balance of power in the women's game.
Williams has reached the last four at Melbourne Park on six previous occasions and gone on to win the title every time.
On Tuesday's evidence, it looks like only illness or injury can prevent the 34-year-old from repeating the feat and adding a 22nd major title to her collection.
The American, who came into the tournament after a four-month layoff, twice had treatment for "food poisoning issues" during breaks in the 92-minute rematch of last year's final. Continued...