Williams within 1 win of 7th Australian Open title


By John Pye ,AP

MELBOURNE — Serena Williams is one win away from another Grand Slam milestone after beating Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0, 6-4 in an Australian Open semifinal that was almost a non-contest between the players who’ll be Nos. 1 and 3 in the next women’s rankings.

If Williams wins Saturday’s final against No. 7-seeded Angelique Kerber, she’ll equal Steffi Graf’s record of 22 Grand Slam singles title, a record in the Open era, and the second-most in history behind Margaret Court’s 24.

Williams is the overwhelming favorite, and not just based on recent form. She continued her perfect streak in Australian Open semifinals, and she has won all six finals she’s contested at Melbourne Park.

“I definitely block it out,” Williams replied to a question about equaling Graf’s mark. “I was one off last year, too!

“If I don’t win on Saturday, I’ll still be one off.”

Despite all her success, it is a loss that is inspiring Williams in this tournament. She was two matches away from a calendar-year Grand Slam in 2015 when she lost to Roberta Vinci in the U.S. Open semifinals.

“Physically I’m feeling a lot better, mentally I needed that break after the Open,” she said, but “I didn’t think I would do this well this fast.

“I’m really excited to be in the final — it just kind of blows my mind right now.”

Kerber ended Sydney-born British player Johanna Konta’s surprising run with a 7-5, 6-2 semifinal win to reach her first Grand Slam final. Konta was the first British woman since 1983 to reach a major semifinal.

Kerber has one win in six matches against Williams — in 2012.

Graf was the last German player to win the women’s title in Australia, in 1994, and Kerber is asking for some advice.

“So Steffi, write me please,” she said, laughing with the crowd on Rod Laver Arena.

Williams’ win over fourth-seeded Radwanska provided another yet reminder of her dominance in the women’s game. She has won 39 of her last 40 Grand Slam matches across six major tournaments.

Williams hasn’t played a left-hander so far this tournament and said that, combined with Kerber’s win over two-time champion Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals, were making her wary.

“She took out a really tough opponent in Victoria. You can’t underestimate Kerber,” Williams said. “She’s beaten me before, too, and pretty good. I know that she brings a lot to the game.”