Serena Williams has now won her last 18 meetings with Maria Sharapova ©Getty Images

World number one Serena Williams extended her remarkable winning streak against Russia’s Maria Sharapova to reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open as she seeks to defend her title in Melbourne.

The American headed into the contest against the fifth seed as the clear favourite having beaten Sharapova in their last 17 meetings, including last year’s final, with the run stretching back to 2004.

An error-strewn service game from Williams saw her broken immediately and raised the prospect of a thrilling contest, however back-to-back double faults from Sharapova allowed her opponent to level shortly afterwards.

Williams began to dominate proceedings with her power starting to prove too much for her opponent, and she claimed the first set 6-4.

Despite the American, who was forced to pull out of the Hopman Cup earlier this month due to a knee injury, calling for the doctor between the sets, she pulled away from Sharapova to seal a straight sets 6-4, 6-1 win.

“There’s something about her game, I like the way she hits the ball,” said Williams, after extending her run against Sharapova.

“Plus, when I play her, I know automatically I have to step up my game, I think that makes me play better.

“I play better, when I'm forced to play better, I don't know, I do well.”

Roger Federer will meet Novak Djokovic in the men's semi-finals
Roger Federer will meet Novak Djokovic in the men's semi-finals ©Getty Images

Williams will now meet Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska, who advanced to her second Australian Open semi-final by overcoming Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro.

The fourth seed, who is chasing her first Grand Slam title, raced through the tie by earning a straight sets 6-1, 6-3 victory.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic booked his place in men’s semi-finals after breezing past Japan’s Kei Nishikori.

The Serbian, who made 100 unforced errors in his fourth round match, looked back to his best as he coasted to a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win, although he was broken twice in the third set.

Djokovic, who is pursuing a record sixth Australian Open title, will now face Switzerland’s Roger Federer after the third seed ended the challenge of Tomas Berdych.

The Czech had beaten Federer in their last two meetings at Grand Slams but was unable to extend that record as he fell to a 7-6, 6-2, 6-4 loss, with Federer now due to meet Djokovic for the 45th time in his career.