Serena Reaches Final At Australian Open

Serena Williams of the United States celebrates after winning over Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova during their Women's singles quarterfinal match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009. (AP Photo/Rick Stevens)
By  | 

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - Serena Williams moved within one win
of a 10th Grand Slam title and fourth in Australia with a dominating 6-3, 6-4 victory over Elena Dementieva on Thursday.

With the roof closed at Rod Laver Arena to protect the players and fans from outside temperatures topping 111 degrees, Williams played her best match of the tournament.

"I haven't moved like that for a while, so I was a little shocked," said Williams, who has a sequence of winning the Australian Open every alternate year since 2003.

The 27-year-old American was only a game from a quarterfinal exit on Wednesday when Svetlana Kuznetsova was serving for the match.

But the reigning U.S. Open champion found her rhythm quickly against Dementieva, who has not gone past the semifinals at a Grand Slam since 2004.

After beating Russians in two successive matches, she'll face another one in the final. No. 3 Dinara Safina played No. 7 Vera Zvonareva in the second semifinal.

Twice before, Williams has had to save match points in her semifinal en route to the Australian title.

Dementieva didn't take her that far this time, giving Williams too many free points with eight double faults.

The Russian had been on a 15-match winning streak and had two
titles to open the season, including wins over No. 2 Williams and No. 3 Dinara Safina at the Sydney International.

"I had a good run ...(but) I feel like today I was not quick enough," she said. "I was not maybe aggressive enough against her. She dictated points. "But I have no regrets. I had just a great time here."

While it was cooler inside than out at Melbourne Park, Williams already had soaked through her blue dress by the time the second game was over, not surprising since they had played 16 minutes.

When Williams blasted a clean crosscourt winner while serving at
3-3, she gave Dementieva a long glare. Dementieva smacked a service
return winner on the next point and glared right back.

Dementieva held to start the second set in a game that went to deuce five times and lasted 14 minutes, then broke Williams en route to a 3-0 lead.

That sparked a four-game run for Williams until Dementieva broke to even the second set at 4-4.

Then nerves seemed to get the best of Dementieva. Having problems with her service toss, she double-faulted twice, the second setting up break point. Williams ripped a backhand winner down the line and pumped her fist.

Williams has had problems with her first serve throughout the
tournament, but it came through when she needed it most.

Serving for the match at 5-4, she started with an ace and hit another serve that Dementieva sent long.

At 30-15, Williams followed with another ace. Dementieva squealed and bent over in frustration. Another powerful serve on match point set up an easy overhead and it was over in 98 minutes.

Roger Federer, seeking a record-equaling 14th Grand Slam singles title to match Pete Sampras' career record, was playing American Andy Roddick in the night semifinal.

No. 2 Federer, who is 15-2 against the seventh-seeded Roddick, who beat defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals.

Top-ranked Rafael Nadal set up an all-Spanish final against Fernando Verdasco when he beat No. 6 Gilles Simon 6-2, 7-5, 7-5 on Wednesday night, when the temperature had dipped to 93 degrees from
the high of 109 degrees.

Verdasco ousted 2008 runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (2), 3-6,
6-3, 6-2.

"I think it's incredible for us," Nadal said. "One will be in the finals, so we have to be happy with that."

No Spanish man has won the Australian title.

Wednesday marked the start of what weather forecasters were predicting would be a once-in-a-century heat wave for the city.

Nadal, a Majorca native, was relieved he'd been given a night

"Believe me, I never feel the same like today when I was warming up outside," he said. "The conditions were very hot. I couldn't walk."

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-01-29-09 0041EST