Tennis

Williams recovers to set up Sharapova semi

Top seed Serena Williams kept alive her hopes of a sixth Wimbledon title and a possible calendar Grand Slam with a three-set win over Victoria Azarenka.

The American, 33, won a high-quality quarter-final 3-6 6-2 6-3 in front of 15,000 spectators on Centre Court.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion has now won 26 matches in a row at the majors stretching back to Wimbledon 2014.

Williams goes on to face Russian fourth seed Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals on Thursday.

She is now two wins from holding all four major singles titles, and closer to becoming the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1988 to win all four in one year, but afterwards continued her policy of not talking about the subject, saying “no Slam talk”.

Williams and Sharapova will meet for the 20th time, with the American having won the last 16 encounters.

“It’s been a while but she’s been playing really well, she’s such a fighter,” Williams told BBC Sport.

“I look forward to it. I don’t have anything to lose, I’m just going in there trying to win a match.”

Williams came through one of the toughest tests she has faced while picking up titles at the US, Australian and French Opens to keep her amazing Grand Slam run going.

The American hit 17 aces and 46 winners to overcome Azarenka in an intense contest that lasted two hours and five minutes.

“It was really fun out there,” said Williams. “I was smiling at one point and I saw Victoria smiling as well. We both really enjoyed it.

“It’s been up and down, up and down, but somehow I’m still alive. I’m just happy to be here.”

Azarenka knew she could trouble Williams, having taken her to three sets twice during the recent clay-court season and squandering three match points against the American in Madrid.

After surviving some early pressure on serve, the Belarusian broke for 3-1 after her power drew an error and then converted her third set point with a raking forehand winner.

The standard of hitting was remarkable, each putting the other under huge pressure on serve early in the second.

Azarenka fought off three break points in game four, Williams then saved herself with a big serve and a backhand in game five.

The key moment came when Williams broke to lead 4-2 with a dipping backhand, setting up a run of seven straight games that effectively decided the match.

Azarenka threatened to break back when offered one last chance as Williams served for the match, but almost inevitably the world number one found an ace to see off the danger and sealed victory moments later.

Credit: BBC Sport

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