Venus ‘living the dream’ as hot Coco awaits

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Age-defying Venus Williams says she is living the dream after making yet another Grand Slam semi-final Tuesday, setting up an all-American clash against a rampant Coco Vandeweghe.

The 36-year-old powered past Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) and into her third Australian Open semi, while Vandeweghe stunned French Open champion Garbine Muguruza 6-4, 6-0 in a blitz of big hitting.

Coco Vandeweghe of the US celebrates her victory against Spain’s Garbine Muguruza during their women’s singles quarter-final match on day nine of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 24. AFP

“What can I say. Just trying to live the dream,” Williams said of her longevity, after becoming the oldest woman since a 37-year-old Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon 1994 to make a Slam semi.

“I have no exact answer, except I do know how to play tennis, so that’s helpful. If you can get the ball in, it’s even more helpful.”

It is a remarkable feat for Williams, who made her professional debut in 1994 and is enjoying a late-career renaissance following a long battle with a rare autoimmune disorder.

She made the same round at Wimbledon last year but had not got this far at Melbourne Park since 2003, when she beat Justine Henin only to lose to sister Serena in the final.

Henin is long retired but Serena is still going strong and plays her quarter-final, against Johanna Konta, on Wednesday, with an all-Williams title match still on the cards. Venus Williams also made the last four at Melbourne in 2001, losing to then world number one Martina Hingis, another veteran who is playing doubles at this year’s Australian Open.Despite surprise-package Vandeweghe showing imperious form, Williams is brimming with confidence and believes she can go on to win her first Grand Slam since Wimbledon in 2008.

“Why shouldn’t I? I try to believe. Should I look across the net and believe the person across the net deserves it more?” she said.

“This mentality is not how champions are made. I’d like to be a champion, in particular this year. The mentality I walk on court with is: I deserve this.”

The seven-time Grand Slam winner is yet to drop a set in Melbourne and was composed against Pavlyuchenkova, who had knocked out 11th seed Elina Svitolina and Svetlana Kuznetsova, seeded eight, on her way to the quarter-finals.

But Vandeweghe will be a different proposition.

Vandeweghe, like Williams one of the tallest women on the circuit at 6ft 1ins (1.85 metres), she is supremely confident and in fine touch, having stunned world number one Angelique Kerber before upsetting Muguruza. “I really wasn’t feeling great out there. I was nervous… I was second-guessing myself,” said the 25-year-old, whose mother was an Olympic swimmer and whose grandfather played basketball for the New York Knicks.

Mugged Muguruza admits she was taken by surprise

Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland serves against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France during their men’s singles quarter-final match on day nine of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 24. AFP

Melbourne: Garbine Muguruza said she was taken by surprise by a brilliant Coco Vandeweghe after her upset defeat in the Australian Open quarter-finals on Tuesday.

The French Open champion was blasted off court by the unseeded American, including an embarrassingly one-sided second set in the 6-4, 6-0 loss.

“I was surprised. I think she played unbelievable. Three times we played in the past, she didn’t show this level,” Muguruza said.

“She played very good. Her serve, her shots were there. She barely missed.” Despite winning at Roland Garros last year Muguruza, 23, struggled with consistency in 2016.

But she had been in good touch at the season-opening Brisbane International and in Melbourne, until the big-hitting and confident Vandeweghe came along.

The American described her second set performance as “like a freight train, you couldn’t stop it”, with Muguruza having no answers.

“I’m very happy. I think it’s a very good start of the year. I trained hard to kind of start well,” Vandeweghe said.

“Even though I felt my body wasn’t 100 percent and I didn’t know how far I was going to go here, but I think I went pretty far.”

Raonic’s bomb serve could explode Nadal bid

Melbourne: Rafael Nadal knows he must find a way to defuse the booming serve of Milos Raonic on Wednesday if he is to stay on course for a dream Australian Open final with Roger Federer.

The chances of a ninth Grand Slam final between the old rivals have dramatically improved after the shock exits of top seeds Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic put the title up for grabs. But 30-year-old Nadal, the 14-time Grand Slam champion, first has to get past third seed Raonic, the highest-ranked player still standing in the men’s quarter-finals. The Canadian, yet to win his first major title, suffered heartbreak in last year’s Melbourne semi-finals when a groin injury put paid to his chances against Murray.

The winner will face either Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov or Belgian David Goffin in the semi-final in the bottom half of the draw.

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