Serena sets career prize money mark

MELBOURNE, Australia -- All those winner's checks Serena Williams collects add up: By reaching two finals at the Australian Open, she broke golf star Annika Sorenstam's record for career prize money by a female athlete with nearly $23 million.

Williams was busy Thursday, first beating Elena Dementieva of Russia 6-3, 6-4 in the singles semifinals and then pairing with older sister Venus for a victory in the doubles semifinals.

Even if the American were to lose both title matches, she would leave Australia with career earnings of about $22.7 million, according to the WTA Tour, eclipsing Lindsay Davenport's women's tennis prize record by more than $500,000 and Sorenstam's total by more than $150,000.

If Williams wins two Australian Open championships this week, she'll push her haul above $23.5 million.

Told of the news, the 27-year-old Williams recalled her first check of $240 in prize money from an event in Canada in 1995.

"It's amazing how much women's tennis has grown since I joined the tour 14 years ago," she said. "I am very proud to have reached this milestone for me, my family and all women athletes out there."

Williams will play Dinara Safina of Russia in the Australian Open singles final Saturday, bidding for a 10th Grand Slam singles championship, most among active players. She and her sister will be seeking their eighth Grand Slam women's doubles title when they face Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia and Ai Sugiyama of Japan in that final.

Overall, the younger Williams has won 32 singles titles and 14 doubles titles.