Serena Williams brushed aside the latest member of 'generation next' trying to steal her crown by beating teenager Madison Keys 7-6, 6-2, setting up a blockbuster Australian Open final against Maria Sharapova.

Top-seed Williams, who at 33 is 14 years Keys' senior, faces Sharapova on Saturday after the Russian trounced compatriot Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-2 in the earlier semi-final.

Williams was pushed hard by her 19-year-old challenger in an absorbing duel between two of the game's hardest hitters on a cool and windy day at Rod Laver Arena.

Keys burnished her credentials as the next torchbearer for American tennis, defiantly saving eight match points as her opponent roared in frustration before Williams sealed the contest with a thumping ace down the middle.

"She's obviously a great player," Williams said courtside, still suffering a cold and breaking into coughs.

"I think she's going to be winning this tournament very soon and lots of other grand slams. I was really happy to see her do so well and be such a great sport at the same time."

Williams, who retains her world number one ranking by reaching the final, will face the woman she has tormented for over a decade in 27-year-old Sharapova, a five-time grand slam champion with a 2-16 losing record to the American.

The last time Sharapova beat Williams was at the Tour Championships in 2004.

Sharapova, a 2008 champion at Melbourne Park, lost to Williams in the 2007 final and again in the final at the 2013 French Open.

Source: Reuters