MELBOURNE: Unstoppable Serena Williams zeroed in on a record-breaking 23rd Grand Slam title on Thursday by setting up an Australian Open final against her older sister Venus, as the siblings’ dream came true.
The ruthless world number two proved one step too far for unseeded Croat Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, whose fairytale tournament was finally ended in a crushing 6-2, 6-1 defeat in just 50 minutes.
In swatting aside the 34-year-old, in their first meeting since 1998, Serena, 35, stayed on track for a seventh Australian title which would take her past Steffi Graf's Open-era record of 22 major wins.
She has refused to talk about the possibility of finally surpassing the German, but now has a golden chance of further cementing her place in history.
Winning the title would also mean the world number one ranking would be hers again, after Angelique Kerber snatched deposed her late last year.
Only Venus stands in the way after the elder Williams rolled back the years to beat fellow American Coco Vandeweghe 6-7 (3/7), 6-2, 6-3 in the other semi-final.
It ensured another chapter in their eventful family history as they meet for their ninth Grand Slam final on Saturday, eight years after the last. Serena holds a 6-2 advantage.
"I didn't watch [Venus]. Obviously I was really proud, she's an inspiration, my big sister," said Serena. "She's my world, my life, she means everything to me. I couldn't be happier for us both to be in the final. It's the biggest dream come true for us."
She also paid tribute to Lucic-Baroni, a former teenage prodigy when the Williams sisters were emerging in the 1990s before her career was derailed by personal problems. "Mirjana is an inspiration, she deserves all the credit today. To get this far, after everything she has gone through, that just inspires me."