Williams slays Sharapova to reach ninth Miami Masters final

Serena Williams punches the air in delight during her semifinal match-up with Russia's Maria Sharapova.

Story highlights

  • Serena Williams advances to Miami Masters final with straight sets semifinal win
  • Defending champion beats Maria Sharapova for 15th time in a row
  • American will next face Australian Open champion Li Na
  • Men's No. 1 Rafael Nadal sets up semifinal clash with Tomas Berdych

Serena Williams is through to her ninth Miami Masters final after beating Maria Sharapova at Crandon Park on Thursday.

Defending champion Williams trailed early on in the match before powering her way past her Russian opponent in straight sets 6-4 6-3.

Sharapova had worked an early lead, breaking in the fourth game of the opening set and led 4-1 at one stage.

But her advantage was short-lived as Williams reeled off five games in a row to close out the set.

The fourth seed broke Williams again in the second game of the second set to steal an early advantage, but any momentum gained was immediately lost as the world No. 1 broke back in the very next game.

Further breaks in the seventh and finally the ninth game sealed Sharapova's fate, dashing hopes that she could break her duck in a tournament where she has finished runner-up on five occasions.

Venus Williams fights incurable disease
Venus Williams fights incurable disease


    Venus Williams fights incurable disease


Venus Williams fights incurable disease 06:07
Beach workout lifts your game
Beach workout lifts your game


    Beach workout lifts your game


Beach workout lifts your game 04:26

"It wasn't easy," Williams said afterwards. "Obviously Maria plays really well, and she's done really well here, so I just decided I had to do a little better, stay focused and make more shots."

This latest defeat is the Russian's 15th in a row against the American -- a sequence which stretches all the way back to 2004.

Williams will play Li Na in Saturday's final after China's world No. 2 beat Dominika Cibulkova in a rematch of January's Australian Open title match.

It went to three sets, as did their quarterfinal clash at Indian Wells this month, before Li prevailed 7-5 2-6 6-3 against the Slovakian 10th seed to become the first player from her country to reach the Miami final.

The 32-year-old is seeking to end a run of nine consecutive defeats against Williams, the last of which was in the final of last season's WTA Championships.

"It's a good challenge, I think," she said. "Here we can really see how I've improved in these three, four months."

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal fought his way into the men's semifinals, where he will face 2010 runner-up Tomas Berdych.

The Spaniard needed to come from behind against big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic, winning 4-6 6-2 6-4 in two hours and 35 minutes.

"For me to be in semifinals after losing early in Indian Wells is very important for my confidence," said Nadal, a three-time losing finalist in the hard-court tournament.

Nadal has a 16-match winning streak against Berdych, who will return to the top five in the rankings after earlier battling past Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-4 7-6 (7/3) in the third quarterfinal.

It was the Czech's 450th ATP Tour victory, making him just the ninth active player to achieve that milestone.

"He was a very tricky opponent," said Berdych. "Even the conditions were not the perfect way that I really like. It was quite windy, so it was a little bit more difficult. But I handled it quite well."

World No. 2 Novak Djokovic and Japan's Kei Nishikori, who beat Andy Murray and Roger Federer respectively in their quarterfinal ties, will contest the first semifinal on Friday.

Read more: Roger Federer upset by Kei Nishikori

Watch: Venus Williams fights incurable disease


    • Rafael Nadal of Spain watches the ball in his match against Martin Klizan of Slovakia during during day seven of the China Open at the National Tennis Center on October 3, 2014 in Beijing, China.

      What does 2015 hold for Rafa?

      Rafael Nadal's body might be giving him a few problems, but his mind remains as strong as ever. Will the Spaniard add to his haul of 14 grand slam titles?
    • LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 17: Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and his long time girlfriend Kim Sears arrive at Buckingham Palace on October 17, in London, England. Murray will become an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and receive his medal from the Duke of Cambridge. (Photo by John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

      Love game: Andy Murray to tie knot

      The Scot has served up a few changes to his support team in 2014 but there's one person who isn't going anywhere -- his new fiancée Kim Sears.
    • Despite being forced to retire at the age of 24 due to health problems, Lacoste remained in the game and went on start the "Lacoste" brand in 1933, which specialised in tennis products. The inspiration for the company's logo came from his nickname as a player, "le crocodile."

      'Crocodile' who broke all the rules

      His distinctive crocodile logo is seen on clothing all over the world, but Rene Lacoste also left a lasting legacy in the development of tennis.
    • Serena Williams of the US holds the US Open trophy after defeating Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark during their US Open 2014 women's singles finals match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Center September 7, 2014 in New York. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

      Serena savors U.S. Open win

      Serena Williams is without peer in the modern women's game and now she is on a par with two American tennis legends from the past.
    • American tennis player and golfer Althea Gibson (right) receives a kiss from compatriot Darlene Hard, whom she beat in two sets to become the first black woman to win the Women's Singles Finals at Wimbledon.

      The amazing life of Althea Gibson

      Over the course of her remarkable life, Althea Gibson was many things to many people -- but it was tennis where she really left her mark.
    • Courting couple at match point

      "I didn't cry once when I practiced in front of the mirror," says Martin Emmrich. But the nerves kicked in when he got down on one knee on court.
    • LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 03: Tennis / Frauen: Wimbledon 2004, London; Finale; Siegerin Maria SHARAPOVA / RUS 03.07.04. (Photo by Bongarts/Bongarts/Getty Images)

      'Baby' Sharapova's big moment

      It's 10 years since a teenage Maria Sharapova became the darling of Wimbledon's hallowed Center Court, launching herself as a star.
    • 'Swiss Miss' follows mom's lead

      Five-time grand slam champion Martina Hingis has followed her mom into a coaching role, setting up a new tennis academy in Barcelona, Spain.