Blast from the past for Serena, Lucic-Baroni

MELBOURNE: An irrepressible Serena Williams kept her record-breaking Grand Slam dream alive on Wednesday to set up a Australian Open semifinal against someone she last faced in 1998. The American joined sister Venus in the last four after stepping up a level to oust dangerous Briton Johanna Konta 6-2, 6-3 and end her nine-match winning streak. Her battling victory keeps intact a potential all-Williams final, with Venus needing to get past fellow American Coco Vandeweghe in the other semi to set-up the nostalgic showdown.
But first Serena, 35, must beat former teenage prodigy Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, 34, who upset fifth seed Karolina Pliskova to continue her heart-warming comeback after her career was derailed by personal issues.
“I’m really happy for Mirjana. I was there when she first started. To see her be able to never give up actually is super inspiring to me. It’s a wonderful story,” said Williams.
The last time they met on court was at Wimbledon 19 years ago, a match the American won.
“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. That’s all,” said Williams.
909478“Honestly, we have totally different games now, the both of us. We both have gone through a lot. We both have survived, and here we are, which I think is a really remarkable story.”
They have travelled vastly different paths.
While Williams has gone on to win 22 Grand Slams, Lucic-Baroni is in her first major semi since 1999, having been off the circuit for many years after fleeing an abusive father and suffering money and injury problems.
She is now back in the limelight after coolly dismantling Pliskova 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in an emotional win.
“To me, this is overwhelming,” she said, sobbing uncontrollably.
“I will never forget this day and the last couple of weeks. This has truly made my life, and everything bad that happened, (it) has made it okay.”
Serious contender
Getting past Williams to keep the fairytale going will be a far tougher test. The victory over Konta marked an incredible 10th successive Grand Slam semifinal for the American, and her 34th overall, reinforcing her remarkable consistency.
She has refused to talk about the possibility of finally surpassing Steffi Graf to win a 23rd Grand Slam and take sole ownership of the Open-era record.
But Williams now has a real chance of doing so to further cement her place as perhaps the greatest player of all time.
If she achieves the goal of winning a seventh Australian Open, it will also propel her back to world number one, after Angelique Kerber snatched the accolade from her last year. — AFP