No.2 seed Serena Williams dispatched surprise semifinalist Mirjana Lucic-Baroni to put herself one match from Grand Slam No.23 against sister Venus in the Australian Open final.
WTA Staff

MELBOURNE, Australia - 22-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams put on an efficient display against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, winning, 6-2, 6-1 to book her eighth Australian Open final appearance, where she'll play sister Venus Williams in the first all-Williams final in Melbourne since 2003.

"I felt like it was in my hands to force this Williams final," she said after the match. "Believe it or not, I was feeling a little pressure about that, but it felt really good to get that win."

Lucic-Baroni had been the story of the tournament, knocking out two of the Top 5 seeds in Agnieszka Radwanska and Brisbane International champion Karolina Pliskova, but it was clear from the outset that the match up against the World No.2 - their first since 1998 - favored the American's more consistent firepower on Wednesday.

"I was playing someone that is really good. She can play so well. So it was just a moment.

"In sport, you have to focus. But it's also a great moment because you realize that we're so close. We're family. But it's that focus that you have to have, and the discipline."

Williams raced out to double break leads in each set, hitting 14 winners to 10 unforced errors - compared to 10 winners and 23 errors from the veteran Croat - and dropping just two points behind her first serve to book her second straight Australian Open final in 50 minutes.

"I'm obviously here to win the tournament. That's the reason I come all this way. Yet, at the same time, I don't have anything to prove. I don't have to win another match as long as I live. I just have to have fun and do what I do best.

"That's what I've been doing this tournament. I feel like, overall, I've been doing pretty good."

Though Lucic-Baroni's tournament comes to a tough end, the 34-year-old still had some time to soak in the spotlight one last time, taking a selfie with the Rod Laver Arena crowd before leaving to rapturous applaus; she'll rise to a career-high ranking of No.29 on next week's WTA rankings.

"It's an amazing start to the year, for sure," the veteran said in post-match press. "I'm so motivated. My physio, everybody is telling me, every physio, 'Okay, now you got to rest, fix the leg, we got to start.'

"I'm so excited to get on the practice court. Maybe not tomorrow, but couple days. This gives me so much motivation. I already texted my fitness coach. I'm like, 'Okay, I'll be ready in a few days.'

"Now I want to work even harder. I want to continue having success and playing well and enjoying this, keep going forward."

Waiting for Williams in the final is sister Venus, who earned her first Grand Slam final berth since the 2009 Wimbledon Championships with a three-set win over CoCo Vandeweghe. The pair last played a major final Down Under in 2003, when Serena clinched the first of her two Non-Calendar Year "Serena" Slams.

"After everything that Venus has been through with her illness and stuff, I just can't help but feel like it's a win-win situation for me. I was there for the whole time. We lived together. I know what she went through.

"It's the one time that I really genuinely feel like no matter what happens, I can't lose, she can't lose. It's going to be a great situation."

In an even bigger full circle moment, the sisters played the first match of their storied rivalry at this very tournament back in 1998; Saturday's final will therefore mark one of the first Open Era rivalries to span three decades. 

Should Serena emerge victorious, she will earn her 23rd Grand Slam title, breaking the Open Era record she currently shares with Stefanie Graf.