Tennis: Serena to face Henin; Murray advances to final
By DENNIS PASSA
AP Sports Writer
MELBOURNE, Australia — Andy Murray is only one victory away from doing what no British man has done in more than 70 years — win a Grand Slam singles title.
Murray beat Marin Cilic 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 Thursday night advance to Sunday's Australian Open final. He'll take on the winner of Friday night's semifinal between three-time Australian Open winner Roger Federer and 2008 finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Serena Williams and Justine Henin won their semifinals over Chinese opponents to advance to Saturday's final. Williams beat Li Na 7-6 (4), 7-6 (1) while Henin wasted little time beating Zheng Jie 6-1, 6-0.
Serena Williams recorded her 50th career win at Melbourne Park and advanced to her fifth Australian Open final. Henin is playing in her first Grand Slam tournament in two years since ending a 20-month retirement.
Li and Zheng were the first Chinese players to advance to the semifinals of the same Grand Slam.
"Every time I had match points, she came up with some big serves and great shots," Williams said. "She just goes for broke."
If Federer wins it will mean a rematch of the 2008 U.S. Open where the Swiss star beat Murray in straight sets. That was the 22-year-old Scot's only trip to a Grand Slam singles final, where his loss continued a stretch of no British man winning a major since 1936.
Murray expects Federer to be across the net from him on Sunday night at Rod Laver Arena.
"Tsonga's played a lot of sets, he's going to be a little bit tired like Cilic was, but you never know with him, he's a great player," Murray said. "Still, I expect Federer to come through."
The last British man to win at the Australian Open was Fred Perry in 1934. Perry won Wimbledon in 1936, the last British man to win there, a drought that has worn heavily on the psyche of players such as Murray, Tim Henman and others before them.
Murray is the first British man to reach the Australia final since John Lloyd in 1977 and the first to reach two Grand Slam finals in the Open era.
Murray used to joke several years ago that when he lost, the domestic press referred to him as Scottish, but when he won he was British. He could make everybody happy in the United Kingdom if he breaks the drought on Sunday.
The semifinal Thursday appeared to turn on a remarkable Murray "circus" shot in the second set to break Cilic's service. Murray chased a shot back over his head and laced a blind forehand past the Croatian at the net.
With the point won, Murray opened his mouth wide and let out a loud roar.
"It was really important because I don't want to say the match was slipping away from me, but the momentum was definitely with him," Murray said. "Yeah, that shot made a big difference."
At the end of the match, a man wearing a Croatia football jersey walked on to the court and shook Cilic's hand before being removed by security. It was the first on-court security breach at the tournament.
"I think the fan got excited and he wanted to shake my hand, so ... I gave him a present," said Cilic. "I shook his hand. He was happy."
Serena Williams got some help from her sister for her semifinal win. After Venus Williams lost in the quarterfinals to Li, ending any chance of an all-Williams semifinal, she did all she could to ensure at least one family member would be there.
"She told me how to play her and what to do," Serena said. "She had chances yesterday and she knew how to play her. It always helps when you have someone who can help you out."
Williams and Henin stopped the numerous Chinese flags at Rod Laver Arena from being raised too often in jubilation.
"Good for both players," Li said. "Also good for China tennis. I think if the children, they see this, maybe they will be more confident and think they can do it some day, too."
Unfortunately for Zheng, it was the most lopsided women's semifinal at the Australian Open since Chris Evert beat Andrea Jaeger by the same score in 1982.
"It was perfect," said Henin, who had to beat Olympic gold medalist and No. 5-ranked Elena Dementieva just to get past the second round. "I had enough tennis in the past two weeks so it was good to have a pretty easy match."
Serena Williams has won the title every time she's played the final here since beating Venus here in 2003. The winning sequence has been every odd-numbered year so far.
The Williams sisters, the defending champions in doubles, later beat Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs 6-3, 7-6 (6) in the semifinals and will meet No. 1-seeded Cara Black and Liezel Huber in Friday's final.
Henin is unranked and two tournaments into her comeback, hoping to emulate fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters' win at the U.S. Open last September.
Clijsters was only three tournaments into a comeback from two years off, and playing on a wild card entry, when she beat both Williams sisters en route to winning the title at New York.
Williams is hoping for better against a Belgian on the comeback this time. Her semifinal loss to Clijsters in New York cost her a record $82,500 fine for a tirade against a line judge who called her for a foot fault.
Serena Williams leads Henin 7-6 in career head-to-heads, although they've never met in a Grand Slam final. Williams won their last match, at Miami in 2008, just before Henin retired suddenly while holding the No. 1 ranking.
"It's such an amazing chance that I have to play another final in Melbourne," said Henin, who won the 2004 title in Melbourne and lost the 2006 final. "It's a very special occasion."