Tennis

Serena leads semi-final charge of golden oldies

Only three women can now prevent Serena Williams from clinching a 23rd Grand Slam title on Saturday - her sister Venus, a younger compatriot and a 34-year-old Croatian she last played nearly two decades ago.

The quartet take to Rod Laver Arena today with Serena playing Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Venus facing Coco Vandeweghe.

In an Australian Open where upsets have been a daily occurrence, world No. 2 Serena is the sole survivor of the top 12.

She last played Lucic-Baroni in 1998 at Wimbledon when they were both 16.

"It was on Centre Court. That's all I remember. I remember winning. I was so excited because I was so young. She obviously was super young, too," Serena said yesterday, after beating Johanna Konta 6-2, 6-3 in the quarter-finals.

"We have totally different games now. We both have gone through a lot. We both have survived, and here we are, which I think is a really remarkable story."

Six-time Melbourne Park champion Serena, 35, has yet to lose a set and is the clear favourite.

Lucic-Baroni's path to the last four has been more of a battle, as befits a woman who has overcome huge adversity to get back to the top of the game after years in the wilderness.

She enters today's match with concerns about an injury to her left leg.

"I'm going to be just fine," said the world No. 79, who yesterday defeated Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

"I'm going to recover, do some therapy, and I'll be fine. I'll just put some extra tapes on and hopefully it will hold me together. I'll fight hard. I'll be okay."

The first semi-final is an all-American affair pitching Venus, the oldest woman in the draw, against 25-year-old surprise package Vandeweghe.

Venus, 36, winner of seven Grand Slam titles, has reached the Australian Open final just once, losing to Serena in 2003.

Vandeweghe, ranked 35th in the world, has got to the last four of a Grand Slam for the first time here by blowing opponents off the court with her booming serve and big winners.

But Venus promised that the power tennis would not be coming from just one side of the net.

"Power is her game, her strength. She's putting the ball in with it, it's awesome to see really," Venus said.

"(But) I play a power game as well. I've been fortunate enough to play good defence and have good movement around the court. Hopefully this will be a plus for me."

Vandeweghe was seven years old when Venus first played at the Australian Open.

She said: "It's a dream to play someone you grew up watching," she said.

"To play an unbelievable player, future Hall-of-Famer, Venus, to be on the court with her but to do it at this stage of a Grand Slam is kind of crazy." - REUTERS

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