Seasoned performers face off in final four

It was in the men's draw that we were expecting stability and predictably. It hasn't exactly turned out that way. The women's competition at this Australian Open was without Serena Williams and it was considered anyone's trophy to win.

High seeds tumbled out in the early rounds. Americans Sloane Stephens - the last player to win a slam - Venus Williams and CoCo Vandeweghe were all sent crashing out not long after lunch on day one.

Fans were left looking for a new star. Who would be the next bolter to a women's slam after Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko won the French last year and Stephens tasted success at Flushing Meadows?

When push came to shove, however, the Australian Open semis this year feature the world No.1 and world No.2, along with a former world No.1 which, in the women's game, is not an exclusive club.

Sure, Belgian Elise Mertens is the surprise attendee in the final four alongside Simona Halep, Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber, but there's a pretty strong chance that whoever holds the Daphne Akhurst Trophy aloft on Saturday night won't have come from the clouds.

Kerber's progression to today's semis has been the most eye-catching.

The German turned 30 at this tournament, destroyed Maria Sharapova in the third round and, in a potentially testing quarter-final against Madison Keys yesterday, gave a tennis lesson to the young American.

In just 51 minutes on Rod Laver Arena, Kerber monstered Keys off the court. For those with tickets to centre court for a day of grand slam quarter-final action, you'd hope they turned up on time.

For Keys, there was nowhere really to hide. Her capitulation to countrywoman Stephens in the US Open final barely four months ago, where she lost 6-3, 6-0, was eerily similar.

Kerber now plays world No.1 Halep in what should be an absorbing semi-final. It will be the Romanian's fifth trip to the semis at a major and perhaps her big chance to leave the club of accomplished women's players yet to break through.

Halep had a brief hiccup against Karolina Pliskova in her quarter-final, slipping to a 0-3 deficit in the opening set, but regained her composure to deliver a straight sets knock-out of the Czech sixth seed.

In one hour and 11 minutes, Halep defeated Pliskova 6-3, 6-2.

"For sure it wasn't my best start," Halep said on-court. "I knew I had to restart after three games, to move better

"I served well today. Everything went pretty well for me."

Another woman desperate to join the club of major winners is Wozniacki. The Dane world No.2 has been thereabouts for years and has reached two grand slam finals since 2009, both of those at Flushing Meadows.

Wozniacki was riding high as top seed and world No.1 on her previous visit to the last four at Melbourne Park in 2011 when she blew a match point and went on to lose to China's Li Na.

"It feels great to be back here in the semi-finals, it's been a few years," Wozniacki said after beating Carla Suarez Navarro 6-0, 6-7 (3), 6-2 in a quarter-final that finished well after midnight.

"Last time I was in the semi-finals here, I had match point against Li Na. I lost it. That's still haunting me till this day. So I'm hoping for a different result this time.

"I remember very well that match. I usually forget matches and I don't remember playing certain people. I don't remember a lot of things, but that one is one that I remember very well.

"I went back on the practice court. I never do that after going far in a tournament and losing after a tough battle. Just needed to get some frustration out."

Wozniacki meets Mertens, the world No.35 who has arguably one of the biggest attributes in her favour: a nothing-to-lose mentality and no burden of history to weigh her down.

This story Seasoned performers face off in final four first appeared on The Age.