Serena hits back from the brink

WORLD No1 Serena Williams admitted she was contemplating her long flight home before staging a remarkable comeback to reach the semi-finals in Melbourne.

The defending champion was in serious trouble at a set and 4-0 down to Russia’s Victoria Azarenka, only to storm back to win 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2.

“I was actually thinking: ‘If I lose today and I lose in doubles I think I can catch a flight on Friday’,” the American said.

“That’s not what a champion is supposed to think, but that’s what I was thinking. I’m just happy to still be here, I didn’t expect to win when I was down 0-4.”

All hopes of an all-Williams semi-final disappeared earlier after elder sister Venus let slip a one-set lead to lose 2-6, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5 to 16th seed Li Na.

With Zheng Jie already through to a last four date with Justine Henin, it means China has two players in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam for the first time.

Serena has won the Australian Open title on each of the four occasions she has reached the semi-final, but was staring defeat in the face to the inspired Belarussian.

Not having been broken in her previous four matches, Serena lost four of her opening seven service games as the seventh seed took control.

But Serena managed to recover her serve just in time and after somehow clinching the second set on a tie-break, over-powered her 20-year-old opponent to clinch the match.

In contrast, Li’s comeback victory made up for in determination what it lacked in quality, but the 19-year-old was just overjoyed to be in the last four.

“My goal this year was top 10. But now it’s only January so it’s come quickly,” she said.