Serena Williams’ domination of the most one-sided rivalry in tennis continued as the American hammered Maria Sharapova to reach the Australian Open semi-finals.
Williams has not lost to Sharapova since 2004 and she is now unbeaten in 18 matches against the Russian after winning 6-4 6-1 on Rod Laver Arena.
The world number one will now face Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska in the last four and stands two wins away from a record-equalling 22nd grand slam title.
Sharapova has not only failed to beat Williams in recent years she has struggled even to stretch her, winning only three sets during the 18-match losing streak.
The world number five, however, had her chances here, most notably with two break points at the end of the first set, but Williams delivered when it mattered most and it was one-way traffic thereafter.
“It was super intense, she’s an incredibly intense, focused player, she’s won so many grand slams for a reason,” Williams said.
“When you’re playing someone like that who is so great you have to play with fire and intensity.
“I’ve been playing this week aggressive and I didn’t start that way so after the first set I just wanted to play the way that got me to the quarter finals.”
Williams was not at her blistering best, with her forehand and first serve both well below par, but it is ominous for the rest of the draw that there is still so much more to come.
On a baking hot day in Melbourne, Sharapova raced out of the blocks, breaking Williams to 15 before holding with an ace to take a 2-0 lead.
Williams was struggling to find her rhythm but Sharapova failed to pull away and instead the American broke back for 2-2 after her opponent’s backhand drifted wide.
Growing into the match, Williams piled the pressure on Sharapova’s serve but the Russian came from 0-40 down in the eighth game to scrape a gutsy hold.
The grunts were getting louder and with the match in the balance at 4-4, two crashing forehand winners, one from each player, were greeted with screeches of celebration.
A Williams double-fault gifted Sharapova one of two break points but both were saved with booming serves as the top seed held to lead 5-4.
Now it was Sharapova’s turn to feel the heat as a cruel net cord prevented her from sealing the hold and a lengthy game ensued in which Williams carved out four set points.
She missed three with netted forehands, partially forced by Sharapova’s brave second serve, but the fourth was converted with a cool forehand volley.
Williams called out the physio before the start of the second set but when play resumed it was Sharapova who struggled, as she was broken in the second game and then again in the fourth, with Williams storming into a 5-0 lead.
There was a late rally as Sharapova held and then had two break points at 5-1, but the comeback lasted only a moment, as a crashing Williams forehand sealed progress in an hour and 32 minutes.