(Australian Associated Press)
Serena Williams has equalled Roger Federer’s record for most grand slam match victories after powering past world No.2 Simona Halep to book her spot in a ninth Australian Open semi-final.
In their first meeting since Halep’s demolition of Williams in the 2019 Wimbledon final, the American great rediscovered her top-form to exact revenge on the Romanian and triumph 6-3 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena.
The 39-year-old’s victory on Tuesday night sets up a blockbuster last-four meeting with pre-tournament favourite and 2019 Open champion Naomi Osaka.
Williams turned back the clock to crush Halep in just 81 minutes to put her just two wins away from equalling Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles.
She has lost four finals in pursuit of Court’s momentous mark since winning her last major in 2017, which she achieved while pregnant.
The seven-time Australian Open champion has now won 362 matches at majors to equal Federer’s record.
If Williams wins her 40th appearance in a grand slam semi-final, the mother-of-one could meet world No.1 Ashleigh Barty in Saturday night’s decider with the Australian fancied to progress through her softer side of the draw.
The determined veteran, who has previously won all eight semi-finals at Melbourne Park, feels she is only improving the longer the Open goes.
“I definitely think this is the best match I’ve played this tournament,” Williams said.
“I knew I couldn’t play worse (than she did against Halep last time) so that was a good thing.”
Williams will on Thursday battle Osaka, who ended the fairytale run of Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-Wei with a demolition job in the quarter-finals, for a second time at a major.
Their first clash came in the 2018 US Open final, with Osaka winning 6-2 6-4 on Williams’ home major court in New York.
In one of the more controversial women’s finals, the pro-Williams crowd booed Osaka post-match for spoiling their hero’s parade.
Williams’ own behaviour during the match was highly criticised, after she called the umpire a “thief” among a series of unsavoury incidents.
“I think we both have had closure (from that match), and we have reached out to each other,” Williams said of her relationship with Osaka.
“I think she’s a great competitor and she’s a cool cat.
“I’ve been watching her. I’m sure she’s been watching me.
“I feel like this is such a good opportunity for me to keep doing my best at the first grand slam of the year.
“I had an incredibly long, arduous off-season so I’m really happy with every win I get.”
Williams’ only defeat in a final at Melbourne Park came against Angelique Kerber in 2016.