|Serena Williams practices during the Bank of the West|
Classic at Stanford last July. Williams won the title for
the third time. Photo by Paul Bauman
The top-seeded Williams needed nine match points to conquer the 19-year-old sensation 7-6 (5), 6-2 today in an all-American semifinal at Melbourne Park. Keys saved seven match points serving at 1-5 in the second set in an 11-minute game and one at 2-5. Williams finally ended the match with her 13th ace.
Neither player appeared hindered by her health problem. Williams is recovering from a respiratory infection, and Keys again played with her left thigh taped after hurting it in her quarterfinal victory over Venus Williams.
Maria Sharapova, seeded fourth, improved to 6-0 against fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova, seeded 10th, with a 6-3, 6-2 victory. In the second round, Sharapova saved two match points against Russian qualifier Alexandra Panova.
Men's semifinals -- Andy Murray, who's 0-3 in Australian Open finals, earned another shot at the title with a 6-7 (6), 6-0, 6-3, 7-5 victory over seventh-seeded Tomas Berdych.
The sixth-seeded Murray, a two-time Grand Slam singles champion, will face the winner of Friday's match between top-seeded Novak Djokovic and fourth-seeded Stan Wawrinka, the defending champ. ESPN will televise the showdown live at 12:30 a.m. (California time).
Djokovic leads the series 16-3 and will meet Wawrinka in the Australian Open for the third straight year, each time one round later. The first two encounters were marathons. Djokovic prevailed 12-10 in the fifth set in 5 hours, 2 minutes in the fourth round in 2013, and Wawrinka triumphed 9-7 in the fifth in 4 hours in last year's quarterfinals to snap a 14-match losing streak to the Serb.
Notable -- Two unseeded teams will meet for the men's doubles title. Italians Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini will play Frenchmen Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut on Saturday at 2:30 a.m. (California time) on Tennis Channel.
Mahut, 33, is best known for playing in the longest match ever. After 11 hours, 5 minutes over three days, John Isner prevailed 70-68 in the fifth set in the first round at Wimbledon in 2010.
Stars and stripes -- In the women's doubles final, unseeded Bethanie Mattek-Sands of Phoenix and Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic will face 14th-seeded Yung-Jan Chan of Taiwan and Jie Zheng of China. Tennis Channel will televise the match on Thursday not before 9 p.m. California time.
Mattek-Sands, the 2012 Australian Open mixed doubles champion with Horia Tecau of Romania, underwent hip surgery last April and missed six months.
All remaining U.S. juniors were eliminated. Third-seeded Taylor Fritz and 11th-seeded Raveena Kingsley lost in the boys and girls singles quarterfinals, respectively, and the third-seeded team of Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia and Michael Mmoh of Temple Hills, Md., fell in the boys doubles semifinals.
Northern California connection -- Serena Williams won her third Bank of the West Classic title at Stanford last year. Sharapova was the runner-up to Victoria Azarenka in the 2010 Bank of the West Classic.
Murray, a two-time Grand Slam singles champion, won the first of his 31 career titles in San Jose at 18 in 2006 and repeated the following year. He never returned, and the tournament folded after 2013.
Fast facts -- Serena Williams, 33, can tie Helen Wills Moody for third place on the all-time list with 19 Grand Slam singles titles. Margaret Court has 24 and Steffi Graf 22. Williams is 5-0 in Australian Open finals and 16-2 against Sharapova with a 15-match winning streak.
Sharapova and Makarova met in the Australian Open for the third time in four years, and the scores have been almost identical. Sharapova won 6-2, 6-3 in 2012 and 6-2, 6-2 in 2013.
Quote -- Serena Williams: "It's an honor for me to play someone who will be No. 1 in the future."