Tennis: Radwanska facing huge Serena hurdle in Australian Open semis

AFP , Wednesday 27 Jan 2016

Agnieszka Radwanska
Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland plays a forehand return to Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain during their quarterfinal match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016.(AP)

Serena Williams has never lost a semi-final at the Australian Open and has emerged a winner each time she has faced Agnieszka Radwanska, in worrying signs for the Pole ahead of their clash on Thursday.

The pair face-off on Rod Laver Arena for a place in the final of the year's opening Grand Slam, with either Germany's Angelique Kerber or British surprise package Johanna Konta awaiting whoever wins.

The imposing American top seed appears invincible after crushing long-time rival Maria Sharapova in the quarter-finals as she steps up her quest to match Steffi Graf's Open-era Grand Slam record of 22 titles.

Her three major wins last year, at the Australian and French Opens and Wimbledon, left her only one short on 21. But Williams, a six-time winner at Melbourne Park, is not getting ahead of herself.

"Nothing's guaranteed in sports. I still have to win two matches against potentially two extremely tough opponents," she said.

Despite the overwhelming odds in Williams' favour, fourth seed Radwanska is upbeat after a 13-match winning streak, including lifting the Shenzhen Open trophy this month.

"I think it's good, especially that I did semi-finals here and I won the tournament (Shenzhen) before," she said of her form. "Couldn't be better so far."

But the popular 26-year-old, who rarely shows emotion on court, added: "Hopefully I can play my best tennis or I'll be in trouble."

Williams has played Radwanska played eight times since 2008, with the 34-year-old world number one winning the lot.

Another ominous fact facing the Pole is that every time Williams has got past the quarter-finals in Melbourne, she has gone on to win the tournament.

"It will be a good match," said Williams, the defending champion.

"She's been playing really well towards the end of the year, and already this year she's been very consistent. She presents a completely different game, an extremely exciting game.

"So I think it will be a long match and it will be a good match to see where I am."

The two are friends off court and the American said if Radwanska won, she would wish her well.

"I know Aga really well. She's a really nice girl. We always get along," she said.

"Whoever wins, we both deserve to be in the final. If she wins, I'll be very happy for her. I'm sure she'll feel the same way."

The Pole said the experience she gained from making the Wimbledon final in 2012, along with three other major semis, would be crucial.

"Experience is very important in tennis. I'm happy to have that and I'll be ready for the semi," she said.

- Uncharted territory -

The winner will face Kerber or Konta in Saturday's final -- uncharted territory for both players.

Kerber upset two-time champion Victoria Azarenka to make the last four and the renowned fighter will be a handful for Konta, the first British woman in a Grand Slam semi for 33 years.

The German's confidence is high after encouragement from compatriot Steffi Graf to believe in herself as she looks to reach a major final for the first time.

"I'll be going out there to win the match, to be aggressive, take my first chances I can get," she said.

Kerber is yet to play Konta, the British world number 47 who failed to get through qualifying last year but has since risen 100 places in the rankings.

"She's an amazing competitor. She's showed time and time again over the last numerous years," Konta said of Kerber, as she prepares for the biggest match of her career.

"I'm going to go out there, really enjoy it and enjoy the battle and hopefully, play a good level and give the crowd a good match."

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