Venus reaches first Melbourne Park semi in 14 years
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Venus Williams continued her astonishing late-career revival by felling Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4 7-6(3) on Tuesday to reach her first Australian Open semi-final in 14 years.
The quarter-final will hardly be remembered as a classic, with both Williams and the 24th-ranked Russian surrendering serve with alarming regularity despite perfect conditions for tennis at Rod Laver Arena.
In the end it was 36-year-old Williams's experience that proved decisive when the pressure rose, and Pavlyuchenkova crumbled with a double-fault on match point to boost the American's hopes of a maiden title at Melbourne Park.
"Oh my gosh I'm so excited," said Williams after closing out the one hour and 48-minute match. "I want to go further. I'm not happy just with this.
"I'm just so excited that I have another opportunity to play again."
A semi-finalist at Wimbledon last year, Williams last reached the last four in Melbourne in 2003 when she made a run to the final and was beaten by younger sister Serena in three sets.
The 13th seed will next play the winner of Coco Vandeweghe and Garbine Muguruza for a place in the final, with the mouthwatering prospect of battling Serena for the title if the world number two can get there as well.
In brilliant midday sunshine, it was an uninspiring start for both Venus and Pavlyuchenkova, with each dropping serve twice.
Pavlyuchenkova buckled when serving at 5-4 to stay in the set, double-faulting and then butchering a forehand to offer three set points.
Williams needed only one, hammering a backhand return down the line and giving a yelp in triumph.
Pavlyuchenkova was soon under siege again, and she needed to save three more break points in a marathon 22-point game to draw level.
Any hopes of further resilience on serve were quickly dashed as both players traded breaks to move to 4-4.
Pavlyuchenkova double-faulted to fall back to 0-30 at 6-5, two points from elimination, but bravely pulled her serve out off the fire to go into a tiebreak.
The Russian moved to a 3-1 lead but double-faulted to allow Williams to level and the American spanked a huge return down the line to edge ahead.
Williams hammered a forehand winner to bring up three match points and Pavlyuchenkova surrendered the match meekly with her ninth double-fault.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)