Serena Williams is two victories away from a 23rd Grand Slam title and a return to WTA World No.1 after moving into the Australian Open semifinals with a commanding win over Britain's Johanna Konta.
WTA Staff

MELBOURNE, Australia - Serena Williams is two victories away from a record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam title and a return to WTA World No.1 after moving into the Australian Open semifinals with a commanding win over Britain's Johanna Konta, 6-2, 6-3.

With the victory Serena is through to her tenth consecutive Grand Slam semifinal, a run stretching back to the 2014 US Open.

An even better omen for the American? She's never been defeated at this stage of the Australian Open, having advanced to the final in the six previous times she's reached the semifinals. This time, the promise of a return to the WTA No.1 ranking awaits should she claim her seventh Melbourne crown.

Serena snapped up the last remaining semifinal spot after her much-awaited first-time clash against Britain's No.1 Konta, who's been in torrid form throughout the Australian summer.

Konta's serve had been broken only twice in the entire tournament, but she quickly found herself on the back foot against Serena's powerful returns, dropping serve twice in the opening set.

"I think it was probably one of the best experiences of my life," the Brit described playing Serena for the first time. "I think there's so many things I can learn from that, so many things I can look to improve on, also acknowledge some things that I did well.

"I think, credit to her, she played an almost perfect first set. I felt she really did incredibly well. She just showed and shows why she is who she is."

Serena Williams

Serena struggled with her own serve throughout the match as her normally powerful first serves - one of the hallmarks of her game - seemed to abandon her, giving Konta the first look at a break point in the third game of the first set. But when the serve failed Serena found other weapons to rely on, outpacing Konta from the baseline with some heavy ground strokes. A timely ace - Serena's first of 10 in the match - bailed her out of trouble.

"My first serve wasn't really great, but I've really been working on my second serve," Serena explained later in press. "Hasn't been great all tournament, so I've been kind of relying on my second serve. I've been relying on my groundstrokes, forehand, backhand. My returns have really picked up.

"All around, I feel like she's a great all-around player. So I feel like I had to be on it all around today."

With that early wobble behind her, Serena was all business as she steamrolled through the opening set, her forehand firing on all cylinders.

The American's service woes put her in another early deficit in the final set, as Konta roared back from down 15-40 to break and open up a 3-1 lead. But the pressure from the 22-time Grand Slam champion never let up, who quickly broke back to establish parity, rattling off five games in a row to move into her 34th career Grand Slam semifinal.

Standing between Serena and the final is Mirjana Lucic-Baroni after the 34-year-old stunned No.5 seed Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. The pair's last match came almost two decades ago.

"It was in '98, I remember," Serena said of their Wimbledon match. "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.

"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."