Serena, Henin, Murray reach Aussie finals
Andy Murray is still around at the Australian Open, only one victory away from doing what do what no British man has done in more than 70 years -- win a Grand Slam tournament singles title.
Murray beat Marin Cilic 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 Thursday night in a semifinal to advance to Sunday's championship match. 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.
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 Murray's only trip to a Grand Slam singles final, where his loss continued a streak 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.''
Earlier Thursday, 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.
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 Australian 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 he was Scottish, and when he won the media referred to him as British. He could make everybody happy in the United Kingdom if he breaks the drought on Sunday.
"I started going for my shots a little bit more, he was playing right close to the baseline,'' Murray said. Cilic "played three five-set matches and made it so tough for me and fought until the end.
"I'm really look forward to the final now, I'm feeling good.''
Leading 3-1 in the fourth set and with Cilic serving, Murray unleashed a forehand to the corner that left Cilic standing in the middle of the court on break point. He took a 5-1 lead on his next service game and closed the match in just over 3 hours.
"I wouldn't (make) my tiredness an excuse for losing this match,'' Cilic said. "I think he deserved to win.''
At the end of the match, a man wearing a Croatia soccer 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.''
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.
It was the first time that two Chinese players had advanced to the semifinal of a major, but 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. I can't wait for the final.''
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.
"I really should have won sooner ... I had so many match points and I blew it and I knew I couldn't mess up my serve because she never gives up,'' Williams said of her win over Li.
"Every time I had match points she came up with some big serves and great shots. She just goes for broke.''
Serena, the 11-time Grand Slam singles champion, and Venus, the defending champions in doubles, later beat Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs 6-3, 7-6 (6) in the semifinals. They'll play No. 1 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, but the dream continues.''