By Nick Mulvenney
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Serena Williams remained on course for her 23rd grand slam title by quelling the challenge of in-form Briton Johanna Konta 6-2 6-3 to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open for the eighth time on Wednesday.
The 35-year-old American served up 10 aces and thumped 25 winners over 75 minutes on Rod Laver Arena to join sister Venus in the last four, where she will play Croatian Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.
Ninth seed Konta, who reached the semi-finals here last year and won the Sydney warm-up tournament, managed a single break in the second set but was unable to cope with the power of the world number two.
Williams succeeded in finding the target on less than half of her first serves but cleaned up the points on 88 percent of the occasions when she did.
Furious with herself at times because of her inaccuracy, Williams channeled the anger to overcome 25-year-old Konta and reach her 34th grand slam semi-final without having given up a set in five matches.
“I missed a lot today, I got a little frustrated, then I told myself ‘Serena, stop complaining don’t be a Baby-rena out on court there’,” she said.
“I admit I complain a lot… but I said to myself, ‘just have fun and try to enjoy the moment’ and I did.”
Williams is seeking her seventh Melbourne Park title, which would assure her of a return to world number one in place of ousted champion Angelique Kerber.
She started the match reasonably slowly, feeling out an unfamiliar opponent desperate to force her out wide to the wings of the court.
Williams saved a break point to hold on her second service game and pounced to go 3-1 up when the Briton dumped a backhand into the net after a long rally.
Another Konta error, a forehand long, gave Williams the set and the American was immediately applying pressure on her opponent’s serve at the start of the second.
Konta rallied from 0-40 to hold, however, and then broke Williams to go 2-1 up when the six-times champion overcooked a crosscourt forehand.
The pressure on Konta’s serve was unrelenting by this stage, though, and Williams raced around the court like a teenager to break back before a sizzling backhand winner gave her the chance to serve for the match.
Williams said she was delighted to be facing 34-year-old, Lucic-Baroni, some 18 years after their only two previous meetings in 1998.
“It’s really amazing, 30 is the new 10,” Serena added. “I’m so proud of Mirjana, she has been playing so well.
“We played over a decade ago, nearly two decades ago. She’s been playing two decades. No matter what happens, someone 34 or older will be in the final, so that’s great.”
(Editing by John O’Brien)