Serena Williams, Nadal, look to book Australian Open semis
ABS-CBN Sports on Jan 24, 2017 04:45 PM
United States' Serena Williams celebrates after winning the first set against Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic during their fourth round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
DENNIS PASSA, AP Sports Writer
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australian Open quarterfinalists Serena Williams and Johanna Konta have never met on a tennis court, but Konta knows the American well — from watching Williams play when the Australian-born British player was a youngster and in her teens.
"Just because of the longevity of her career, it's impossible for me not to grow up not seeing her play," the 25-year-old Konta said of Williams, who is 10 years older.
Konta and Williams play their afternoon match Wednesday at Rod Laver Arena.
Williams said she knows Konta's game "pretty well... she's been playing really well, has an attacking game."
Konta said she felt Williams concentrates more on her own preparation than her opposition.
"I don't necessarily think that Serena Williams possibly gets too worried," Konta said. "Just the amount of experience she has, I'm sure she's got her system and her method for preparing for every match, regardless who she plays, and I'm sure she's going to be applying that method against me."
Williams is attempting to make history. If she wins a seventh Australian Open singles title, it would be her 23rd major championship overall, breaking a tie with Steffi Graf for most in the Open era.
She'd also recapture the No. 1 ranking she lost to U.S. Open champion Angelique Kerber in September. Kerber, the defending champion here, lost in the fourth round.
And Williams could possibly face her sister, Venus, in a replay of the 2003 final, which Serena won. Venus plays fellow American CoCo Vandeweghe in the semifinals on the other side of the draw.
Konta, a semifinalist here last year who won the Sydney International tournament 10 days ago, has already made some history of her own.
With her quarterfinal appearance, it's the first time a British woman has outperformed a British man at a Grand Slam since the 1993 Australian Open. Among the British men at this year's Australian Open, top-ranked Andy Murray, playing his first tournament as No. 1, lost in the fourth round.
Here is a look at the other quarterfinals Wednesday:
NO. 3 MILOS RAONIC VS. NO. 9 RAFAEL NADAL
Nadal leads the head-to-head matches 6-2, but the pair met just two weeks ago in the Brisbane International quarterfinals, where the Canadian won in three sets.
Raonic remembers it very well.
"We both tried to be the aggressors early on," he said. "I fought through a difficult moment midway through that second set. Then I thought I had it pretty handily after that point. I broke toward the end of that second set. Broke right away in the third. Had a lot of love-30 games. Had a lot of break chances following after that, holding quite easy."
It's Nadal's first appearance in a Grand Slam quarterfinal since the 2015 French Open. He had two lengthy injury layoffs last year.
"I'm very, very happy, being in the quarterfinal of a Grand Slam after couple of years not being there is very special for me," said Nadal, who won the Australian Open title in 2009 and was a finalist two other times.
"Especially here in Australia, it feels a little bit like home."
Nadal is wary of his matchup with Raonic, which opens night play at Rod Laver Arena.
"He's the third (-ranked) player in the world," Nadal said. "He's a top player with an amazing serve. I need to be very, very focused with my serve and then wait for opportunities."
NO. 5 KAROLINA PLISKOVA VS. MIRJANA LUCIC-BARONI
Pliskova, who lost the U.S. Open final to Kerber, holds a 3-2 career edge over Lucic-Baroni. Their last match in Wuhan, China, in 2015 was extremely tight, with Pliskova prevailing 7-6 (4), 5-7, 7-6 (5).
Lucic-Baroni reached the semifinals at Wimbledon in 1999 when she was 17. After a long, difficult time off the tour, she has returned to the quarterfinals of a major for the first time since.
"I felt kind of a little bit of unfinished business," the 34-year-old Lucic-Baroni said. "I still wanted to play on a stage like this."
Lucic-Baroni beat third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round, and Pliskova watched that match.
"I think she was hitting the ball really well, playing fast," Pliskova said. "These conditions probably suit her as well. It's going to be probably a fast game, not many rallies. So I have to be really ready on my legs, serving well."
Pliskova and Lucic-Baroni open play Wednesday at Rod Laver Arena.
NO. 11 DAVID GOFFIN VS. NO. 15 GRIGOR DIMITROV
Goffin and Dimitrov practiced with each other during the offseason, so they know what to expect from each other.
"He's a very dangerous player," said Dimitrov, who beat Goffin in the third round at the 2014 U.S. Open in their only career meeting. "I just need to be ready mentally and physically for the battle."
Dimitrov won the Brisbane International warm-up tournament and beat Denis Istomin, who upset Murray, in the fourth round here. Goffin beat eighth-seeded Dominic Thiem in his last match.
Goffin and Dimitrov play the last afternoon match at Rod Laver Arena.