Wimbledon: Serena’s power play sets up Sharapova showdown

Serena Williams survives tough battle and will now face Russian in the semi-finals

Serena Williams celebrates after winning her match against Victoria Azarenka  at  Wimbledon. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Serena Williams celebrates after winning her match against Victoria Azarenka at Wimbledon. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

 

Two of the most iconic figures of the game took a rattling yesterday, one verbal, the other physical. Both Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova advanced but not without bearing scars they will take with them to the Wimbledon semi-final, where they will now meet. Sharapova has not beaten Williams for more than a decade.

The 33-year-old American came through a brutal match with a reinvigorated Victoria Azarenka, who had a chance at beating the 20-time Grand Slam champion before Williams slammed the door shut over three sets 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.

“I can lie and say I’m not disappointed. It is what it is. We saw today why Serena is number one. I would do anything, anything to beat Serena and win Grand Slams,” said Azarenka.

Sharapova, who beat American Coco Vandeweghe 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-2, dropped a set for the first time but with Vandeweghe also came out with as straight a complaint as you would hear at Wimbledon. The young American directly accused Sharapova of gamesmanship and moving around while she was in the middle of her serve action.

It would have been easy to dismiss the accusations as the bleating of a defeated and disappointed player, albeit one with an interesting background. The 23-year-old is an articulate individual and a Mormon whose grandmother was once crowned Miss America. And she shoots from the hip.

Moving around

Second Captains

The world number four declined to comment, not feeling the need to explain whether her silence was because she chose not to dignify the accusation, didn’t want to inflate the issue or that it wasn’t true.

“I mean, it is what it is,” said Sharapova, who said she did nothing unusual. “What she said, I’m not going to argue against her words.”

But Vandeweghe was firm and reiterated that there had been a problem. She had been wronged, the umpire was incorrect and she implied that Sharapova was actually cheating.

“What I experienced, what I felt from her moving around in between my serving motion was not, I don’t think, sportsmanlike, in my opinion. I try to play as fair as I can,” said Vandeweghe. “You know, when I felt like it wasn’t being reciprocated, that’s when I spoke with the umpire for her to deal with. I got broken. I walked up straight to the umpire.”

With her big, physical game Vandeweghe will come around again as will American Madison Keys who was beaten over three sets by Poland’s Agnieska Radwanska and Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky, who fell to Spain’s Muguruza. The Spaniard and Pole now meet in the other semi-final.

Favourite

Her strength was, as usual, the moment she picked to hit winners. Just as she had done with Heather Watson in the third round and with sister Venus in the fourth, when she was in a hole, her serving held. Williams earned nine break points and took three, with Azarenka taking just one from eight.

“It was such a great atmosphere to be out here playing and doing the best we can, I think we both enjoyed it,” said Williams of her quarter-final.

It was the big hitting from both players that made it the most impressive match of the championships. The pessimists will look at the remaining three players and fail to see which one can match Williams’s power, which Azarenka has ramped up. The third leg of the ‘Serena Grand Slam’ is more alive now than ever

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