Johanna Konta‘s dream run in Melbourne came to an end as Serena Williams proved too strong for the British number one to move to within two wins from a seventh Australian Open title.
25-year-old Konta was on a nine-match winning streak but she was unable to pull off the biggest win of her career in her first meeting with the American, who cruised towards a 34th grand slam semi-final with a 6-2 6-3 win.
Konta missed an early opportunity to grab a foothold on the match, as she sent a backhand too long on break point and Williams responded with razor-sharp returns, hitting two powerful winners to take a 3-1 lead.
Williams continued to ramp up the pressure on the Briton and another break point in game eight proved to be decisive in the 22-time grand slam champion taking a 1-0 lead, as Konta dropped a set for the first time in the tournament.
Konta showed great strength to come from 0-40 down in her opening service game in the second set to save three break points, which she followed up by breaking the American to open up a 3-1 lead.
That was as good as it would get for the ninth seed, as Williams overcame struggles on her first serve throughout the match to race through the next five games on her way to victory, as she targets a record 23rd grand slam title.
World number 79 Mirjana Lucic-Baroni pulled off a big upset against US Open finalist Karolina Pliskova to reach her first grand slam semi-final in 18 years to set up a final four clash with title favourite Serena Williams.
The 34-year-old will meet the American for the first time since the second round of Wimbledon in 1998, after she overcame a tough test against the fifth seed to secure a 6-4 3-6 6-4 victory.
It was the Czech Pliskova who gained the early advantage with a single break enough to take the first set, but Lucic-Baroni came roaring back to recover from 0-2 down in the second to force the match into a deciding set.
Both women traded breaks early on in the third set and it was advantage Pliskova who held steady for 4-3, before Lucic-Baroni needed a medical time out for treatment on a heavily taped-up left thigh.
However, Lucic-Baroni would come back stronger by securing nine points in a row and sealed an incredible victory when Pliskova sent a forehand into the net, as the Croat was overcome with emotion on reaching her first grand slam semi-final since Wimbledon 1999.
In men’s action, Rafael Nadal continued his quest towards a first grand slam title in three years, as the Spaniard dispatched third seed Milos Raonic in straight sets to reach the Australian Open semi-finals.
The 14-time grand slam champion has struggled with injury in recent years but it looks like Nadal is back at his best, although he needed to save six set points in the second on his way to a 6-4 7-6 (9/7) 6-4 victory over the Canadian.
Nadal broke the out-of-sorts Raonic in the seventh game to take command of match but the Spaniard was pushed all the way by an improved Raonic in the second, as Nadal needed medical attention mid way through the set.
He came back stronger to save three set points at 5-4 and saved two more in the tie-breaker, before taking a two-set lead after Raonic double faulted in his sixth set point.
Games went with serve in the third set until the final game as Raonic’s serve collapsed allowing the 14-time grand slam champion to seal the win with the break point and Nadal celebrated with a huge leap before falling to his knees with emotion.
Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov stands in Nadal’s way of a place in the final after the Brisbane International winner beat 11th seed David Goffin to reach just a second grand slam semi-final.
The Belgian struggled on his serve against the 15th seed with a total of 46 unforced errors during the match and Dimitrov would take advantage as he cruised to a 6-3 6-2 6-4 straight sets win.
Goffin managed to save two match points in the penultimate game of the match but it was not enough to mount a comeback, as Dimitrov booked his place in the semi-finals in Melbourne for the first time with a huge backhand winner down the line.