Australian Open: Serena Williams to face Maria Sharapova in women’s final.

Serena Williams weathered a barrage of big serves and heavy groundstrokes early and needed nine match points before beating Madison Keys 7-6 (5), 6-2 to set up an Australian Open final against second-seeded Maria Sharapova.

World number one Williams downed her fellow American 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 to keep alive her hopes of a sixth Australian Open crown.

Sharapova was the first to book a spot in the decider, thumping fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-2 in 87 minutes.

Sharapova, who beat No. 10-seeded Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-2 in an all-Russian semifinal earlier Thursday to reach her fourth Australian Open final, has lost her last 15 head-to-head matches to Williams. Her only two wins in their 18 career meetings were at Wimbledon and the tour-ending championship in 2004.

It’s been a strange road for me to get to the finals, but I’m happy,” said Sharapova, who is now into her 10th Grand Slam final. “Came from behind in a few, really behind in one — saving match points. I felt like I was given a second chance. I just wanted to take my chances.”

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