Thursday, 29 January 2015

Serena into Sixth Final

Serena Williams had played five Aus Open semi finals previously and with each went on to win the title.  So that was one record Madison Keys needed to upset by defeating the world number one in the second semi final for 2015.  To reach the final the unseeded 19 year old would have beaten both the Williams sisters in successive matches, a rarity indeed.

Serena played her best tennis for the tournament in beating Dominika Cibulkova in the quarters and of course Madison's three set triumph over Venus was memorable if not for the overall standard so much but for the generational significance and the future of women's tennis in the US and worldwide.

A slow Serena start which has become the norm was turned into a break of serve by some clean hitting from Keys and she converted the break with a sensible service game.

Serena troubled the scorers eventually but trailed 1-2 and behind that single break.

Keys served well and hit some beautiful winners off both sides to increase the edge to 3-1 before Serena stepped up the pace, holding serve easily then pouncing on some errant shots from the younger player to even it up at 3-3.

Another strong service game took the world number one to the front for the first time today 4-3. Hardly overwhelmed by the Serena surge, Madison played a quality range of shots to stem the flow and then Serena held again, her serve now looking comfortable and potentially dangerous. 5-4 Williams

The tennis lifted a couple of notches thanks to Madison whose off forehand and backhand were now causing Serena to do extra to stay competitive.  5-5 was achieved without fuss by great serving and other stuff from Keys and then she poured a heap of pressure onto Serena who was taken to deuce and forced to come up with brilliance of her own before leading 6-5.

Madison took the set into a tie break which was fitting since she had controlled the better part of proceedings and forced Serena to play catch up on more than a few occasions. The standard of tennis was light years ahead of the previous match.

Serena won an early point off the Keys serve in the tie break but from that moment on serving dominated and when Serena arrived at 6-3 Madison calmly served two aces to force the champ to serve it out.  Another great serve and the first set had gone to Williams 7-6 but she could count herself fortunate to sneak away with it considering the pressure applied from Madison Keys.

A break of the Keys serve in the opening game of set two can probably be blamed on a let down from the first set loss but it was unfortunate given the state of the match. Serena capitalised by holding with not great ease, needing to save two break points.  Her serve in the difficult situation was fantastic, one 195kmh serve providing her with great joy.

Madison stuck to her task with a comfortable hold, trading some wonderful groundstrokes with her senior opponent, but winning. 2-1 Williams.

Some loose tennis put Madison in peril at 15-40 but clutch serving brought it back to deuce before a wonderful rally finished off with a brilliant Serena chase to a Keys shot for a winner down the line set up another break point. A double fault gave Serena a 4-1 lead with two breaks and a spot in the final was just about hers.

A typical Serena game lasting a few seconds with serve completely on song meant that Madison had to hold serve to stay alive. She did but only after the longest game of the match and saving multiple match points. If anyone ever doubted the courage of Madison Keys, no one does after that effort.

Serena Williams won 7-6 6-2 and her high standard today was required due to the fantastic effort by Madison Keys who will be one of the top players into the next several years.

Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams will play for the title and as the best performed players this tournament, the top two seeds deserve to be there.

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