Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic each moved within one victory of defending their Australian Open titles with semifinal triumphs on Thursday. Angelique Kerber also punched her ticket to the finals during Day 11 at Melbourne Park.
The dominance illustrated by Williams and Djokovic on the Grand Slam stage over the past year is nothing short of extraordinary. They showed no signs of slowing down, as they swept aside Agnieszka Radwanska and Roger Federer, both top-five players, in the penultimate round.
Let's check out how all three semifinal matches from Thursday played out. That's followed by a recap of the action and a quick glimpse at Friday's semifinal matchup.
|2016 Australian Open: Singles Scores from Jan. 28|
|Round||Winning Player||Losing Player||Score|
|Men's Semifinal||(1) Novak Djokovic||(3) Roger Federer||6-1, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3|
|Women's Semifinal||(1) Serena Williams||(4) Agnieszka Radwanska||6-0, 6-4|
|Women's Semifinal||(7) Angelique Kerber||Johanna Konta||7-5, 6-2|
Day 11 Recap
It's a sight to behold when Williams is clicking on all cylinders. That was certainly the case during the first set against Radwanska, as she steamrolled the No. 4 seed by winning six straight games in just 20 minutes to take immediate control of the match.
Although the second set featured more competitive action, it never felt like the 21-time major champion was ever in serious danger. She finished the match with a 42-4 edge in winners and an 8-0 advantage in aces against one of the other top players in the world.
The convincing victory further showcased the gap between Williams and everybody else when she's playing her best tennis. Afterward, she discussed coming into the event refreshed after taking a break at the end of last season, as relayed by Karen Crouse of the New York Times.
"Well, I definitely think I needed the time off," Williams said. "I've been going and going and going for a long time. Been really going hard since probably before the Olympics in 2012. That's a long time. So I felt like I really committed myself, and I need to commit myself and my body and take some time off, restart."
It's seemingly worked to perfection, though all those positive vibes will quickly get washed away if she doesn't finish the job in the final. Yet, as Howard Bryant of ESPN The Magazine noted, sometimes it feels like the endgame in both draws is known well in advance these days:
Full Dissident @hbryant42
Between Djokovic and Serena, it's like table for one in both circuits.2016-1-28 03:59:48
Williams will now prepare to face off with Kerber for the championship. The German veteran had been trending in the wrong direction in recent years with just one major quarterfinal appearance since the start of 2013 before her current run in Melbourne.
The draw opened up with numerous upsets during the early stages of the event, and she took full advantage. She overcame unseeded Johanna Konta in the semis by being the more steady player, finishing with just 11 unforced errors compared to 36 for the English upstart.
Kerber's challenge in the final will be much greater, of course. Not only is she facing an in-form Williams, but the experience gap in these high-pressure situations is massive, which Christopher Clarey of the New York Times spotlighted:
Christopher Clarey @christophclarey
1st Grand Slam singles final for Kerber. The 26th for Serena, whose record in major finals is one of her best GOAT arguments: 21-42016-1-28 05:42:06
On the men's side, the highly anticipated clash between Djokovic and Federer surprisingly turned into a rout through the first two sets. The top seed and reigning champion simply outclassed the Swiss legend in the early going to grab a commanding lead.
Federer started to fight back, winning the third and hanging tight in the fourth. He just couldn't make enough inroads on the Djokovic serve—just four break points in the match—in order to complete the monumental comeback, though.
The 10-time major winner spoke after the match about raising his level against one of his fellow Big Five stars, per Sky Sports.
"I played unbelievable first two sets, but that's what's necessary against Roger," Djokovic said. "He's been playing at a very high level and I knew he was going to try to play aggressive, mix up the pace and come to the net. I came out with the right intensity and executed everything perfectly. But it was a battle in the end."
And ESPN Stats and Info pointed out once Djokovic reaches this stage, he's been virtually unbeatable:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Novak Djokovic takes down Roger Federer advancing to his 6th Australian Open Final. He's 5-0 for his career in Aussie Open finals.2016-1-28 12:25:30
That's bad news for Milos Raonic or Andy Murray. They take center stage Friday with hope of joining Djokovic in the final. They have split six career meetings, but Murray can take solace in the fact he's won the last two in straight sets.
Raonic has showcased more versatility throughout the event, particularly in terms of being effective when coming to net. He'll need to execute that all-around game perfectly against Murray if he wants to join Kerber as a first-time major finalist.
All stats courtesy of the tournament's official site.