Williams, Lucic-Baroni win at throwback Australian Open
MELBOURNE: Serena Williams reached her 10th consecutive Grand Slam semifinal, and kept her bid alive for a record 23rd major title, with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Johanna Konta at the Australian Open on Wednesday.
Her opponent in the semifinals, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who beat fifth-seeded Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, had a much longer wait to get back to this stage at a major — nearly 18 years.
It's the second time in the last two years that three women in their 30s have reached the semifinals at a major: Venus Williams, 36, Serena Williams, 35, and Lucic-Baroni, 34. Serena also reached the semifinals at the 2015 US Open, alongside 30-somethings Flavia Pennetta and Roberta Vinci.
"Thirties is the new 10," Williams said after her match. "No matter what happens, someone 34 or older will be in the final."
It's also the first time since 2002 that three American women have reached the semifinals at the same Grand Slam. Venus Williams plays American CoCo Vandeweghe in the other semifinal on Thursday.
In the men's quarterfinals, Rafael Nadal will try to reach his first major semifinal since the 2014 French Open when he plays third-seeded Milos Raonic later Wednesday. Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin were playing for the other semifinal spot.
The second-seeded Serena Williams was tested by Konta in the second set when the British player broke her to go up 2-1. But Williams broke back at love to level the score at 3-all and saved another break point in her next service game before closing out the match.
Williams finished with 10 aces, but only connected on 45 percent of her first serves overall.
"The main focus is actually my serve even though I missed a lot today," she said. "I got a little frustrated, but then I just told myself, 'Serena, stop complaining. Don't be Baby Rena out here.'"
Lucic-Baroni advanced to the last four at a major for the first time since her run to the Wimbledon semifinals in 1999 at the age of 17.
The last time she made it this far, Lucic-Baroni also had to face a woman in the semifinals with 22 majors — Steffi Graf. Graf won that match, but fell short in her bid to win her 23rd major title against Lindsay Davenport.
The 79th-ranked Lucic-Baroni is surprised she is getting another chance at this stage of her career.
She and Pliskova combined for 14 service breaks in an up-and-down match before the Croatian left the court midway through the third set for treatment on her heavily taped left leg.
When she returned, she won eight straight points to hold and get the final break of the match and then put a rosary around her neck to serve the match out.
"I know this means a lot to every player to reach the semifinals, but to me, this is just overwhelming," she said, in tears, after the match. "This has truly made my life and everything bad that happened, it has made it OK."
Lucic-Baroni was once considered a prodigy with as much promise as the Williams sisters. She won the first tournament she entered as a 15 year old in 1997 and several months later captured the 1998 Australian Open doubles title with Martina Hingis.
After her run to the Wimbledon semifinals the following year, however, Lucic-Baroni's career was sidetracked by personal issues and financial problems. She was largely out of the sport for several years before launching a comeback in the late 2000s.
Despite her recent difficulties, Lucic-Baroni said she never lost the belief she could compete at the top of the game.
"When you stop winning as much and you don't play for a long time, yeah, you definitely lose it a little bit," she said. "Not even lose it, you forget it. ... And I'm really glad that I remembered."