Serena Williams battled past gallant Madison Keys Thursday, to set up a dream Australian Open final between the top two seeds after arch-rival Maria Sharapova defeated Ekaterina Makarova. The two players in the world have a long history and the odds are stacked in Serena’s favour ahead of the Melbourne Park decider on Saturday, with the American holding a major psychological advantage. Serena has a 16-2 record against Sharapova, with the Russian five-time Grand Slam champion losing their every encounter since 2004. Despite the ominous statistic, Sharapova has been in outstanding touch and blew away fellow Russian Makarova 6-3, 6-2 on a blustery afternoon on Rod Laver Arena. She is now in her fourth Australian final, having won in 2008. Serena was made to work harder by rising American teen Keys, who fought to the end, saving eight match points. Coached by former US great Lindsay Davenport, Keys forced Serena to a first set tiebreak before her illustrious opponent took charge to win 7-6 (7/5), 6-2. “It’s really great to be in the final again, I didn’t come here with that expectation so it’s really exciting,” said Serena. In reaching the final at 33, she became the oldest player to make the Australian Open decider in the Open Era, surpassing Chris Evert. It also ensured that she keeps the number one ranking she has held for more than 100 weeks. Sharapova could have claimed the accolade if she had won the title and Williams had failed to make the final. In another warning sign for Sharapova, her rival has won all five of the previous finals she has made in Melbourne. Williams is now in her 23rd major final, and has claimed 18 of them.