Enjoying a late-career renaissance, Venus Williams has made it to her third Australian Open semifinals. The last time she reached the semifinals there was in 2003, when she lost the final to her younger sister Serena.
Venus Williams became the oldest woman to reach a Grand Slam semifinal in 23 years, earning a spot in the last four at the Australian Open.
The 36-year-old beat number 24-ranked Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4 7-6 (3) on Tuesday, winning the last six points in the tiebreaker to earn her 50th career win at Melbourne Park.
Both Williams and Russian Pavlyuchenkova surrendered serve with notable regularity, despite perfect conditions for tennis at Rod Laver Arena.
In the end, Pavlyuchenkova crumbled with a double-fault on match point to bolster the American's hopes of a maiden title at Melbourne Park.
"I'm so excited, she never let up. We have always had these quality matches. I'm not happy just with this but so happy I can go further," Williams said.
The 13th seed is now scheduled to play fellow American CoCo Vandeweghe for a place in the final after Vandeweghe beat Spain's Garbine Muguruza Blanco 6-4 6-0. There is a chance Venus could once again play her younger sister, Serena, in the final.
Venus hasn't reached the semifinals in Australia since 2003, when she lost the final to Serena.
Tuesday's win makes her the oldest woman to reach a Grand Slam semi since 37-year-old Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon in 1994. Williams made her professional debut in 1994, and had been enjoying a late-career renaissance following a battle with a rare autoimmune disorder.
The seven-time Grand Slam champion was yet to drop a set in the tournament. She benefited from a favorable draw, playing two qualifiers and China's fifth ranked player Duan Yingying.
Two netted forehands gave Pavlyuchenkova a break point on Venus Williams' opening serve, but she couldn't convert and it went with serve.
She had another chance in game three and hit an untouchable cross-court backhand. A double fault soon leveled the two again.
Williams then struggled to find the mark on first serve and Pavlyuchenkova jumped on the second, with a netted forehand from Williams again giving a break away.
Neither player was serving well but Williams started asserting herself, forcing Pavlyuchenkova around the court to create opportunities. She broke back for 4-4 with a volley after a high lunging forehand from the Russian.
Williams then hit some amazing winners, including an unstoppable backhand down the line to secure the set by breaking again to love.
The American held serve in the opening game of the second set to immediately put the pressure on and kept hammering away in an 11-minute second game, which Pavlyuchenkova finally won after eight deuces.
A wild backhand in the next game handed momentum to the Russian, who broke for a 2-1 lead, but after a seesawing Williams broke straight back.
Another break each and it was 6-6 and into a tiebreak where Williams used her big-match experience to prevail, with Pavlyuchenkova succumbing on a double fault.
aw/cmk (Reuters, AP, AFP)