Australian Open: Serena Williams Makes It 18 Straight Over Maria Sharapova, Clinches Semifinal Berth

World number one Serena Williams reasserted her dominance on Maria Sharapova once again, defeating the Russian 6-4, 6-1 for the 18th time in a row to book her place in the semifinals of the 2016 Australian Open. Williams will play Agnieszka Radwanska next, who has yet to lose a match in 2016.

Williams Recovers from Early Deficit to Take Opening Set in 55 Minutes

Beginning the match on the front foot, Sharapova was zoned in right from the off, benefiting from a couple of unforced errors from Williams to open the match with a break of serve. An ace down the tee would consolidate the early break for the Russian, who was off to the perfect start against a woman she has lost to the last 17 times they have met. Unfortunately for Sharapova, Williams began to find her range a couple of games later, consequently restoring parity at 2-all.

From there, the match went with serve for the next five games of the opening set, with both women trading blows from the back of the court. Sharapova was not intimidated by Williams’ brutal power, camping out right on the baseline for the majority of the rallies and going toe-to-toe with the world number one. After all, she wasn’t going to do much damage on the defensive. However, Williams held her ground, eventually overwhelming the Russian with her precision and depth while continuing to serve her way out of trouble.

In fact, at 4-all – the last game that went with serve, Sharapova had two chances to go up a break once more, but some immaculate serving and hitting from the world number one was ultimately enough to get her a crucial hold of serve. In the game that followed suit, Sharapova was desperately trying to muster a hold in order to stay in the opening set, and held a game point before yours truly believes was the turning point in this match. Serving at 40-30, the fifth seed hit a big serve and got Williams on the defensive, but a lucky net cord for the American pushed the game to deuce.

Photo courtesy: William West/AFP/Getty Images
Photo courtesy: William West/AFP/Getty Images

From there, both women traded blows and game and set points came and gone, but on her fourth set point, Williams saw an opening and pounced. Putting Sharapova on the defensive to force a weak reply, Williams rushed to the net and hit a solid volley right past her flustered Russian counterpart. As a result, she would go on to take the opening set 6-4 in 55 minutes.

Williams Races Away with Second Set; Reasserts Her Dominance Against Sharapova

Prior to the commencement of the second set, Williams called the trainer and the doctor after feeling a little under the weather, but decided against taking a medical time out in order to begin the second set. Showing no signs of any discomfort whatsoever, the world number one opened the set with an emphatic hold at love, which set the tone in the second set.

From there, the 34-year-old began to grow with confidence as more unforced errors flew off of the racquet of her Russian counterpart, who was evidently feeling the pressure of trying to keep up with Williams point in and point out. As a result, the American would go on to break at the second time of asking before consolidating the early break a minute later.

That break seemed to take the wind out of Sharapova’s sails as the former world number one struggled to stay with Williams, as shown by her inconsistency and struggles on serve. Taking full advantage, the current world number one broke for a second time with relative ease and fought off a late match resurgence from her Russian counterpart before moving a set and 5-0 to the good.

Photo courtesy: William West/AFP/Getty Images
Photo courtesy: William West/AFP/Getty Images

To her credit, Sharapova refused to back down, chasing down every ball and still going toe-to-toe with Williams despite not having much success. Often regarded as the most mentally tough player on the WTA, Sharapova saved a match point and got on the board, avoiding the dreaded bagel against her biggest rival. Moments later, the five-time Grand Slam champion began to swing more freely, consequently earning two break point opportunities to recover one of the two breaks against her.

However, some great serving from Williams and off-balance returns from Sharapova erased both of those opportunities just seconds after they were created. Not long thereafter, the world number one earned herself her first match point, which she converted with a routine down the line forehand winner to seal a comprehensive 6-4, 6-1 victory in an hour and 31 minutes.

Photo courtesy: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images
Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

The Match By the Numbers

Williams outclassed Sharapova in nearly every category, breaking four times and winning 73 percent of the points behind her first serve compared to Sharapova who only broke once and won 59 percent of the points behind her first delivery – a statistic that just won’t cut it against someone as good as Serena. Moreover, it wasn’t a great serving day for Sharapova, one of the many reasons for her struggles against Williams.

After hitting a career best 21 aces in one match against Belinda Bencic on Sunday, the Russian hit just three aces to seven double faults, whereas her American counterpart began serving better than in her previous matches, hitting 13 aces to just two double faults. The world number one also dictated the majority of the rallies, forcing the fifth seed to play defence even when returning serve.

Hitting 31 winners to just 20 unforced errors, Williams was able to overpower and outmaneuver Sharapova from the back of the court, while playing high percentage tennis. Sharapova, in contrast, hit just 12 winners to 13 unforced errors, which is a clear indication of how dominant Serena was in this encounter.

In conclusion, it is clear that even though Sharapova can challenge Williams, the former just doesn’t have the weapons to trouble the latter during an extended period of time.