Rome, Italy – Serena Williams appears unstoppable.
Williams ran her winning streak to 23 straight matches Saturday with a 6-3, 6-0 demolition of Romania's Simona Halep in the semifinals of the Italian Open and will set her sights on a fourth straight title on Sunday against Victoria Azarenka.
The last player to beat Williams was Azarenka in the final of the Qatar Open back in February. Williams will get a chance to avenge that defeat, as Azarenka reached the final with a 6-0, 7-5 triumph over Italian crowd favorite Sara Errani.
Since the setback to Azarenka in Doha, followed by an injury withdrawal in Dubai, Williams has won titles in Miami, Charleston and last week in Madrid. Only four times during the 23-match streak has she been taken to three sets and no one has done so this week at the Foro Italico.
In powering past Laura Robson, Dominika Cibulkova, Carla Suarez Navarro and Halep, Williams has dropped a mere 10 games. Three times, including Saturday, she's completed an unblemished set.
Halep actually broke serve to grab a 2-1 lead early in Saturday's match, but it was all Williams from there. Williams broke right back -- the first of her five break conversions -- and fired five aces while winning 57 of the 89 points played in a match that took just 65 minutes.
Azarenka won the first seven games of the match against Errani, who threatened to take the second set after a break gave her a 5-4 lead and thrilled the home crowd. Instead, Azarenka broke right back and won the next two games to reach her third final of 2013.
Sunday will mark the third scheduled meeting of the year between Williams and Azarenka. Azarenka pulled out of a semifinal meeting in Brisbane because of injury and Williams went on to win that tournament to start the year, but the Belarusian claimed a 7-6 (8-6), 2-6, 6-3 win over the American in the Doha final.
"She played well in Doha," said Williams. "I had opportunities I wasn't able to use and Vika played well in the important points. It was a tough tournament, though, and I was happy to be in the final."
The two could have met in the Australian Open semifinals, but Sloane Stephens beat Williams in the quarters and Azarenka went on to win the season's first Grand Slam for a second straight year.
Azarenka is 16-11 all-time in finals, including 2-0 in 2013. This will be her first trip to the Rome finale.
Williams won the Rome crown in 2002, coincidentally the only year she won the French Open, and last week in Madrid secured her 50th career title. She is bidding for her fifth win of 2013.
Azarenka's victory over Williams in Doha was just her second in 13 all-time matchups. Williams had won nine straight in the series, including last year's U.S. Open final and the only previous meeting on clay in last year's Madrid title match.