No.1 Serena Williams reaches Brisbane final
Beats Maria Sharapova in straight sets
Plays second-ranked Victoria Azarenka in final
Venus Williams progresses to title match in Auckland
Serena and Venus Williams reached the finals of different tournaments for the first time since 1999 Friday as the most famous sister double act in sport warmed up for the opening grand slam of the season.
Top-ranked Serena continued her domination of the women’s game with a straight sets win over arch- rival Maria Sharapova to reach the Brisbane final, while 33-year-old Venus has reached the title match in Auckland.
She benefited from a walkover when fifth seed Jamie Hampton was forced to withdraw before the start of their semifinal with a hip injury.
Venus, herself blighted by Sjorgen’s Syndrome and other injuries since 2011, will play Ana Ivanovic of Serbia in a battle of former No.1s.
Ivanovic showed glimpses of her old form with a 6-0 7-3 win over Belgian Kirsten Flipkens to set up a dream final for the organizers.
Likewise in Brisbane, Serena will play second-ranked Victoria Azarenka, who needed over two hours to get past fourth seed Jelena Jankovic, 1-6 6-3 6-4.
After a slow start, Azarenka from Belarus, was able to get on top, racing to a 5-1 lead in the decider and then repelling a late Jankovic rally.
“It wasn’t the best execution, but she was playing some really good tennis out there today,” she told the official WTA Tour website.
Williams was also extended by third seed Sharapova, who is returning to the WTA Tour after shoulder problems.
She took the opener 6-3 but had to recover from 3-1 down in a marathon 68-minute second set to win the tiebreaker 9-7 and progress to the final.
17-time grand slam champion Williams said she was looking forward to locking horns again with Azarenka after splitting four meetings last season.
“She’s so intense on court, and off court she’s so cool,” she said. “When you step on the court I don’t know her and she doesn’t know me, and we fight like crazy. When it’s over, it’s over. There’s a lot of mutual respect there,” she admitted.
Williams will be looking to wrest the Australian Open title later this month from defending champion Azarenka so Saturday’s title match will be an important marker.
She and Venus contested eight grand slam finals between them in their heyday, with Serena winning six of them, as the pair dominated the women’s game in the early years of the century.