Australian Open: Serena Williams Advances to 23rd Grand Slam Final

Serena Williams and Madison Keys

Serena Williams faces Maria Sharapova in an Australian Open final between the tournament’s top-two seeds.

Despite hitting seven double faults, Maria Sharapova dominated the entire match with Ekaterina Makarova. The underdog came out strong in the first game, which lasted over 10 minutes. But Sharapova glided to a 4-1 lead in the first set before Makarova showed signs of life to break at 4-3. Sharapova regained her strength and it was all her from then on. She scored 81% of her first serve points, won all three net points, and hit 23 winners.

The 2008 Australian Open champion is happy to be back in the finals.

“Like every athlete, you question when you are going to be back, how, and at what level,” she beamed after the match. “Just hoped one day I would experience it again.”

The match between Williams and Keys played as an instant classic. Williams, still battling a nasty cold, struggled at first against the 19-year-old. Keys came so close to winning the first set, but her sloppy second serve and 18 unforced errors got in her way. Williams flew through the second set to go up 5-1, but Keys did not want to leave Melbourne. She fought off seven match points in the 11-minute game to hold serve and win the game. It was the most exciting game of the tournament. But Williams served to win and fell to her knees as she won the match with her signature ace.

At the net, Keys extended her hand, but Williams pushed it aside and pulled Keys into a strong embrace. Williams said it was “an honor” to play against someone who will be “number one in the future.”

“She’s obviously a great player,” said Williams. “It’s great to see her doing so well. She’ll be winning Grand Slams soon.”

Williams is still coughing and ill.

“I’m a lot better,” she explained. “Everyday is getting better. Hopefully by Saturday I’ll be recuperated.”

The 2015 Australian Open Women’s Final between Williams and Sharapova takes place Saturday night at 3 a.m. on ESPN2.