There were few surprises in the semi-finals of the women's singles in Melbourne, as both of the top two seeds were convincing winners of their matches against lesser-ranked opponents. Serena Williams had too much power and experience in the end for her fellow American Madison Keys, while the all-Russian battle resulted in another victory for number two seed Maria Sharapova over her compatriot Ekaterina Makarova.

It sets up the final that the organisers were probably secretly hoping for, between the top two women of all-time in terms of prize money won on the women's tour, who between them have claimed a mammoth 23 Grand Slam titles.

Williams at 33 years of age may have privately wondered if her chance in Melbourne would ever come again, after failing to take the title since 2010 ; while the 27-year-old Russian will be looking to take her sixth Grand Slam ahead of defending her title in the French later in the year, as she seeks to regain the Australian title she last held back in 2008.

Both women had the measure of their opponents in the semi-finals. Sharapova has never lost to her Russian rival, the number ten seed Makarova on the tour and seemed determined to maintain that record for some time longer, after wasting little time in taking the victory 6-3 6-2. She blitzed her opponent from the start, breaking immediately to roar into a 3-0 lead early on.

At 4-1 ahead she lost serve to allow a partial recovery by her rival, as the score closed to just 4-3 in her favour. That prompted a strong reaction from the second seed as she reeled off six games on the bounce to not only take the set, but to look strong favourite for the second at 4-0 ahead. Makarova at least got on the scoreboard by winning two games before the end, but she could not dent Sharapova's resolve as she moved on to take the match.

Williams had more difficulties with fellow American Madison Keys, failing to convert eight match points against the unseeded player, before finally ending her opponent's resolve on the ninth with an ace, to clinch a hard-fought 7-6 6-2 success. Keys had started the match confidently, breaking the Williams' service in the very first game.

However, Serena fought back and broke back before taking the set in a tie-break. The top seed dominated the second set to lead 5-1 and had seven break points on the Keys' serve in the next game, all of which the teenager saved as she stayed in the match a little longer. Serena made no mistake in the next game though as she served out for the match. It was Keys first Grand Slam semi-final of her career so far and bodes well for her chances of future success in the Slams. For Williams, she has the added incentive of knowing that one more Grand Slam title would elevate her into second in the all-time list in the Open era ahead of legendary former players Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. She would still trail a way behind Steffi Graf's record of 22 titles though.

The head to head suggests that Serena will be the strong favourite in the final, as she leads her Russian adversary 16-2 currently and has defeated her in the last 15 matches they have played against each other. Sharapova will look to draw on one of her two previous victories no doubt for inspiration, when she famously claimed the Wimbledon title to upset the odds in 2004.