MELBOURNE, Australia – Defending champion Serena Williams has advanced to her fifth Australian Open final and will put her 100 percent record here on the line against Justine Henin, who is only two tournaments into her comeback from retirement.
Both advanced over Chinese players today to set up a championship match involving two former Australian champions.
Top-ranked Williams wasted four match points before finishing off a 7-6 (4), 7-6 (1) semifinal win with an ace against Li Na, a day after her sister Venus lost to the Chinese player in the quarterfinals.
Henin overwhelmed 2008 Wimbledon semifinalist Zheng Jie 6-1, 6-0 in 51 minutes, the shortest match of this tournament and the most lopsided semifinal at the Australian Open since Chris Evert beat Andrea Jaeger by the same score in 1982.
Williams leads Henin 7-6 in career head-to-head matches, although they’ve never met in a Grand Slam final. Williams won their last match, at Miami in 2008, just before Henin retired suddenly while holding the No. 1 ranking.
“I can’t wait for the final. It’s such an amazing chance that I have to play another final in Melbourne,” said Henin, who won the 2004 title in Melbourne and retired with stomach problems during the 2006 final against Amelie Mauresmo. “It’s a very special occasion, but the dream continues.
“I’m going to play the No. 1 player in the world in a Grand Slam final. She’s a real fighter.”
Serena Williams has won the title every time she’s played for the championship since beating Venus here in 2003. The winning sequence has been every odd-numbered year so far.
“I really should have won sooner. … I had so many match points and I blew it and I knew I couldn’t mess up my serve because she never gives up,” Williams said after beating Li for her 50th career win at Melbourne Park. “She’s a real, real amazing fighter.
“Every time I had match points she came up with some big serves and great shots. She just goes for broke.”
China had two players into the semis of the same major for the first time but still is yet to get a finalist.
Henin has won seven Grand Slam singles titles but is into her first major since the 2008 Australian Open, when she lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champ Maria Sharapova.
No. 5 Andy Murray and No. 14 Marin Cilic were to meet in a men’s semifinal after ousting the second- and fourth-seeded players in the quarterfinals.
With Jo-Wilfried Tsonga taking out No. 3 Novak Djokovic late Wednesday night, there was nobody left in the draw who has beaten Roger Federer in a major.
Federer advanced to his 23rd consecutive Grand Slam semifinal on Wednesday with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-0, 7-5 win over No. 6 Nikolay Davydenko.