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Tennis

Williams, Lucic-Baroni in Australian Open semifinals

Serena Williams has joined her sister in the Australian Open semifinals. She will next face off with Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, who earlier upset Karolina Pliskova to make it to the semifinals for the first time in 18 years.

Mirjana Lucic-Baroni's fairy tale Australian Open performance continued on Wednesday with her stunning defeat of fifth seed Karolina Pliskova to make it into her first Grand Slam semifinal in nearly 18 years.

The 79th-ranked Croatian collapsed to her knees after she defeated Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 and broke into tears in a post-match interview in Rod Laver Arena.

"I can't believe this. This is crazy," Lucic-Baroni said. "I can't believe I'm in the semifinals again. I feel a little bit in shock right now."

As a result of her victory, Lucic-Baroni will return to the top 45 for the first time in years.

At the age of 17, Lucic-Baroni reached the final four at Wimbledon in 1999 but was never able to build on that early success. Within years, she left the sport as she fled an abusive father and suffered money and injury problems and did not play another Grand Slam match until 2010.

"One day I will say a long, big story about the things that happened to me," the 34-year-old Lucic-Baroni told The Associated Press after the match, her voice cracking. "I never could dream about being here again."

Her emotional win ensured a last-four clash with six-time champion Serena Williams, who defeated British hope Johanna Konta in a later game.

Williams joins her sister Venus in the last four after stepping up a level to oust the dangerous Briton 6-2, 6-3 and end her nine-match winning streak.

The 35-year-old American served 10 aces and thumped 25 winners over 75 minutes.

Lucic-Baroni vs. Pliskova

The were several swings of momentum in the match with neither player able to seize control, while Lucic-Baroni had trouble holding her serve when playing into the sun.

Pliskova took an early lead in the first set but Lucic-Baroni's aggressive tactics pegged her back.

Lucic-Baroni, heavily strapped on her left thigh and calf, sealed the first set in 32 minutes and won the opening games of the second before Pliskova broke back and then took a medical timeout to fix strapping on her right foot.

Momentum shifted toward Pliskova after the break and she took the second set.

Pliskova lost serve in the opening game of the decider, but Lucic-Baroni handed the break right back after a controversial call at 15-15 when a serve was incorrectly called out, resulting in a replay of the point.

Lucic-Baroni served two double faults which allowed Pliskova to get back on serve.

The Croatian's problems with the ball toss at the northern end of the arena resurfaced and Pliskova was able to take a 4-3 lead.

Lucic-Baroni took a medical timeout and took the upper hand.

She won 12 of the next 13 points to storm through the last three games and into the semifinals.

Croatia's Mirjana Lucic-Baroni serves during her Women's singles quarter-final match against Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova (Reuters/T. Peter)

Lucic-Baroni reached the final four at Wimbledon in 1999 but was never able to build on that early success

Williams vs. Konta

In their first pairing Konta won the opening point, but Williams settled to hold serve before the Briton served to love.

Williams struggled with her first serve, with just one in three finding their mark in the opening encounters and she had to fend off a break point in the third game, raising her arms in the air when she finally won with an ace.

In the next game, Williams unloaded some powerful ground strokes, forcing a backhand error from the Briton to go 3-1 in front.

Williams hit some ferocious shots that Konta struggled to counter and the American raced through the first set in 35 minutes. 

Before the match, her coach Patrick Mouratoglou advised Williams to start moving better around the court to counter Konta's fast game, and she seemed to have taken the advice.

But her service game continued to cause problems with many first serves called out, handing Konta a chance on the second and she broke for a 2-1 lead in the second set when Williams shunted a forehand wide.

But back-to-back aces on Williams' next service game helped her confidence and she broke back to level the scores at 3-3.

Konta, 25, remained calm and collected but she could do nothing to stop Williams as she moved up another gear to close out the match.

aw/cmk (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)