Williams and Azarenka into quarters


Tennis:Four-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams came through a tough test of her title credentials on a damp and drizzly Court Two today, as she saw off Yaroslava Shvedova in three sets.

Conditions were rarely better than grim, with a strong wind ripping around for the duration and the final games being played under fine rain. But Williams overcame the elements, as well as her in-form opponent - Shvedova recorded the first-ever 'golden set' at a grand slam on Saturday - to progress to a 12th Wimbledon quarter-final, winning 6-1 2-6 7-5.

Her winning shot - a backhand that Shvedova failed to respond to - came with the rest of the courts taking shelter from the rain, but Williams insisted afterwards she never considered asking to leave the court.

"I didn't want to lose today, I thought 'stay relaxed'," she said. "I felt fine. We both wanted to keep playing as it was so deep into the match. I didn't want to stop and I don't think she did."

It had looked as though the match would be wrapped up in no time at all when Williams took the opening set without barely breaking sweat. Shvedova actually took the first point of the match, raising fanciful hopes of another perfect set, but that was neither likely nor expected and she then lost her first service game when she netted a forehand.

Her second game with ball in hand went in Williams' favour too and at 4-0 down with 11 minutes gone, the omens were not good for the 24-year-old from Kazakhstan.

She made a fist of the closing games, though, and despite losing the set was far more competitive, highlighted when she broke WIlliams in the sixth game of the second set when she forced the American to net.

Another break in the eighth game - a backhand winner completing the job - got her level at 1-1 and set up a decider, which was a chanceless affair until Williams earned a seventh-game break point.

She was unable to take it, Shvedova serving away from trouble, and when she squandered three more in the ninth game, it appeared that fortune was not with Williams. But when another chance came her way at 5-5 she took it, albeit through her opponent's error, and she served out for the match, digging out a brilliant backhand lob at 30-30 to set up her one and only match point.

Victoria Azarenkadelivered an emphatic statement with a crushing win over Ana Ivanovic. The second seed had flown under the radar during the first week but she made sure that would not be the case today as she thumped Ivanovic 6-1 6-0 on Centre Court to set up a quarter-final against Tamira Paszek.

Azarenka began the year by winning 26 matches in a row, lifting her first grand slam title at the Australian Open and taking over the number one ranking.

The Belarusian struggled a little on the clay, losing to Dominika Cibulkova in the fourth round of the French Open and seeing Maria Sharapova move above her in the rankings, but she now looks to be back to her best.

She was simply far too good for Ivanovic, who could not cope with the power or movement of her opponent.

Azarenka was 4-0 up when play was halted because of rain and the roof was shut, but the change in conditions did not affect the pattern of the match.

Ivanovic managed to get on the board but it was only a brief respite and Azarenka refused to allow the former French Open champion a single game in the second set.

The 22-year-old will now hope to repeat last year's success over Austrian Paszek, when they also met in the quarter-finals, with Azarenka winning that one 6-3 6-1.

Austrian Paszek,who was beaten last year by Azarenka, was the first woman to reach the quarter-finals with an impressive win over Roberta Vinci.

Champion at Eastbourne in the week leading up to Wimbledon, the 21-year-old has kept her form together and had too much for Italian 21st seed Vinci in posting a 6-2 6-2 success.

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