Qualifying begins: 20 June
The Draw: 24 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 25 & 26 June
Order of Play: 26 June
Championships begin: 27 June
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Six-time champion Williams beat rising Briton Jo Konta 6-2, 6-3 while Nadal fended off the big-serving Milos Raonic 6-4, 7-6, 6-4. Here’s how they did it.
Williams at her best
All the talk before her match with Konta was how well the Briton was playing and how everyone in the Williams camp was wary of her ability.
What that meant was that Serena was 100 percent prepared for the contest and right from the start, she was caning winners, especially on returns, pushing Konta back as often as she could.
“She’s been playing so well, she won Sydney, she’s been cleaning up matches, she’s a future champion here for sure so I am really happy to get through,” said Williams, who will now play Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, the unseeded Croatian, who continued her emotional run with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win over fifth seed Karolina Pliskova.
Konta was a little disappointed she didn’t serve better but the match was pretty much taken out of her hands by the performance of Williams, who is into her 34th Grand Slam final and bang on target to set a new open era record with 23 Grand Slam singles titles.
“I definitely would have liked to have had a bit more say in the match than I did,” she said. “But unfortunately that's also so much to do with Serena herself, the kind of tennis that she plays. That's what she's very good at, the way she's able to dictate and the way she's able to really make sure that the matches and the points are on her terms.”
Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou and Konta’s coach, Wim Fissette, later congratulated each other on a job well done. But the 35-year-old Williams has more work to do against the 34-year-old Lucic-Baroni, who last made a semi-final of a Grand slam event in 1999, at Wimbledon, the year after she played Williams there.
“It was in '98, I remember,” Williams said. “It was on Centre Court. I remember winning. I was so excited because I was so young. She obviously was super young, too. That's all. 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.”
Nadal back in the saddle
For the first time in three years, Nadal is into the last four of the Australian Open and the Spaniard is loving it. Having lost to Raonic in Brisbane two weeks earlier, there were a few nerves, especially in the second set when the Canadian had six set points, despite battling an adductor injury.
But that’s where the old Nadal came to the fore, fighting for every point, snuffing out the danger, pinching the tiebreak and then taking the with his trademark forehand up the line.
Both arms outstretched, he sucked in the applause as he marched into the semi-finals. There were plenty who were not sure Nadal would be back at this stage of a slam after all his battles with injury and he, it seems, was one of them.
“I think I am not a very arrogant person so I always had doubts,” he said. “Even when I was winning a lot I had doubts so you can imagine what I feel when I had injuries. I had a great career but a lot of tough moments and that makes me enjoy the good moments like today even more."
Eight years on from his one Australian Open triumph, Nadal will play Grigor Dimitrov in the semi-finals after the Bulgarian beat Belgium’s David Goffin 6-3, 6-3, 6-4. “I knew it was not going to be easy and in the first set it was nerve-wracking,” said Dimitrov, who reached his only other semi-final at Wimbledon in 2014.
“I’m just happy now. Either way it’s not an easy match. I’m just humbled to be in the semis.”
First Marc Polmans and Andrew Whittington beat top seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 7-6, 2-6, 6-4 in the men’s event and then the top seeds in the women’s doubles went out too, beaten 7-6, 6-2 by Czech Lucie Hradecka and Shuai Peng of China.
Quote of the day
“If you don’t want to watch this match, you don’t like tennis,” Rafael Nadal on the prospect of watching Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka in the first semi-final on Thursday
Shot of the day
Nadal’s forehand was working well but this was as good as any.