Sharapova dispatched fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-3 6-2 in 87 minutes to qualify for her fourth Australian Open final, overcoming a rough opening service game featuring a ton of errors and two potential break points, to wrap up the first set in 48 minutes.
The five-time Grand Slam winner easily navigated tricky wind conditions to seal the second set and book her first return to the Aussie Open final since 2012.
“I think my confidence should be pretty high going into a final of a Grand Slam no matter who I’m facing and whether I’ve had a terrible record, to say the least, against someone,” said the 27-year-old Sharapova of her less than impressive track record against Williams.
“It doesn’t matter. I got there for a reason. I belong in that spot. I will do everything I can to get the title.”
Willaims cruised past compatriot American Madison Keys in straight sets, 7-6 (7-5) 6-2, toppling the 19-year-old with a powerful ace on match point.
Keys produced a gallant first set effort, forcing the 33-year-old Williams into a tiebreak courtesy of some fantastic baseline and service work.
“She pushed me really hard the first set … and I had to really dig deep mentally to get through that,” a still under the weather Williams said.
“It was a little frustrating, I had like nine or 10 match points and couldn’t close it out. That doesn’t happen so much. She played like she didn’t have anything to lose.”
Williams is on the hunt for a sixth Australian Open title and heads into the match with a 15-0 win streak against Sharapova dating back to 2004.
Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images.