Serena Williams, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni make Australian Open Semis

The women’s quarterfinal matches concluded on Wednesday with Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Serena Williams advancing.

Serena Williams and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni joined Venus Williams and Coco Vandeweghe in the women’s semifinals for the 2017 Australian Open. Lucic-Baroni defeated Karolina Pliskova in three sets 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to advance to the semifinals, the first one for the Croatian since Wimbledon 1999. Shortly thereafter Serena made very light work of Johanna Konta, dispatching the British player in an uneventful straight sets 6-2, 6-3.

Both women’s semifinals will be played on Thursday with Vandeweghe and Venus to start not before 2pm Melbourne time. Serena and Lucic-Baroni will follow.

An all-Williams final is certainly possible at the 2017 Australian Open. The main spoiler for that is likely Vandeweghe. The hard-hitting American has emerged as a title threat down under. In fact the sportsbooks make Vandeweghe the betting favorite in the semifinal, with bet365 pricing her at 2 to 3 to win the match over Venus. Serena will surely be favored to beat Lucic-Baroni in the other semifinal when odds are released simply based on the two players’ histories.

Right now is about the time when the players who are missing from this season’s Australian Open could be looked at. Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, and Petra Kvitova are missing from the Aussie for very different reasons.Β Their absences are understandable as Sharapova is serving suspension, Azarenka is on maternity leave, and Kvitova was the target of a brutal home-invasion attack. However, the talent at the Australian Open is in fact diluted with those players out of the picture.

Certainly there were some quarterfinalists this season that did not seem to have very refined tennis at Melbourne Park. Garbine Muguruza, for instance, served just 38% on her first serve in the second set of her loss to Vandeweghe. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova had just 17 winners and an egregious 9 double faults in her quarterfinal loss to Venus. Meanwhile Johanna Konta, who entered the Aussie in fantastic form, got aced 10 times in a short match against Serena. The Brit only managed 11 winners while hitting twice as many unforced errors as she appeared to be more like the World No. 90 instead of the World No. 9.

It all sets the table for Serena to claim another Grand Slam title in a draw that has numerous no-shows -and not just the literal ones. Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep, and Caroline Wozniacki brought their ‘B’ and ‘C’ games to the 2017 Australian Open, none of them surviving to the quarters.

Shane Lambert