Newspaper article International New York Times

Williams Enforces Dominance Again ; Top Seed Beats Sharapova an 18th Straight Time to Advance to Semifinals

Newspaper article International New York Times

Williams Enforces Dominance Again ; Top Seed Beats Sharapova an 18th Straight Time to Advance to Semifinals

Article excerpt

Serena Williams earned her 18th straight victory against Maria Sharapova, the fifth seed at the Australian Open.

Maria Sharapova gives herself and her public plenty of time to think as she takes her now-characteristic long pause between first and second serves.

It is a quiet moment, if not a peaceful one, and the crowd in Rod Laver Arena, which included Laver himself, stayed hushed on Tuesday, just as crowds around the world have stayed hushed with Sharapova mulling her options.

But all the reflection and careful preparation on the planet have not helped Sharapova solve the equation that is Serena Williams.

It is a matter of superior punch, superior speed, superior versatility and, perhaps, even superior willpower, as much as it must pain the driven Sharapova to consider that possibility with the crickets chirping.

Williams versus Sharapova remains the great mismatch -- call it the unrivalry -- of this tennis era. And although Tuesday's quarterfinal at the Australian Open did produce a hotly contested first set, it did not produce a close match, as the top-seeded Williams gathered strength despite two on-court visits from medical staff members in the afternoon heat. Williams said the visits were linked to "food poisoning issues from a few days ago."

Her 6-4, 6-1 victory was her 18th straight against Sharapova, of Russia, and her seventh straight victory in straight sets in the series, and it led to the latest opportunity to explain just how she can keep using the second-best women's player of the last decade for batting practice.

"I don't know, something about her game," Williams said. "I like the way she hits the ball. Plus, when I play her, I know automatically I have to step up my game. I think that makes me play better."

Sharapova, seeded fifth this year, never stopped hustling on Tuesday but also never posed a serious threat down the stretch.

"It's obviously always frustrating, but it's motivating," Sharapova said. "It's tough to sit here 30 minutes after the match and of course talk about the match, But that's part of my job. It's motivating because she's at a different level and she makes you go back to the drawing board, not just for me but for many other players."

Williams, a six-time singles champion here, beat Sharapova to win the title last year. She is a big favorite to reach the final and continue the chase for her 22nd singles title at a Grand Slam event, which would tie her with Steffi Graf for second on the career list.

Williams's semifinal opponent Thursday will be Agnieszka Radwanska, the No.4 seed from Poland, who defeated Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain, 6-1, 6-3, in the first quarterfinal Tuesday.

Williams is 8-0 against Radwanska and is a combined 24-4 against the four women remaining in the bottom half of the draw. Only Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who has beaten Williams three times, appears capable of posing a major threat after starting the season in remarkable form and after pushing Williams to three sets in three classic matches in 2015. …

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