Serena Williams survived a scare to book a Wimbledon semi-final showdown with old rival Maria Sharapova as the world number one battled back to defeat Victoria Azarenka 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 on Tuesday.
Williams was in danger of a shock quarter-final exit after a slow start on Centre Court, but the five-time Wimbledon champion eventually battered 23rd seed Azarenka into submission in two hours and three minutes with a barrage of 43 winners and 14 aces.
The 33-year-old American, aiming to win her fourth successive Grand Slam title and 21st in total, will face world number four Sharapova on Thursday holding a 17-2 lead in their head to head record.
Serena has won all four of her semi-final meetings with Sharapova and defeated the Russian in their previous Wimbledon clash in the last 16 in 2010.
“It’s been up and down. But somehow I’m still alive. I don’t know how,” said Serena, who famously lost to the teenage Sharapova in the 2004 Wimbledon final.
“Maria’s been playing really well. I saw her match today. She’s such a fighter and it’s always good to see her doing well.
“We haven’t played each other at Wimbledon in a while but I look forward to it. I just really don’t have anything to lose.”
After an awkward family reunion in the previous round when she defeated sister Venus in a subdued encounter, Serena was back to her usual shrieking and fist-pumping as she over-powered two-time Australian Open winner Azarenka, who has now lost 17 of their 20 meetings.
Serena’s gritty fight-back extended her remarkable winning run at Grand Slams to 26 matches and her 2015 record to a blistering 37-1.
Despite her inconsistent display, Williams, who has won nine of her 11 Wimbledon quarter-finals, remains on course to hold all four major titles at once and is also in the hunt to clinch the calendar Grand Slam by a woman since Steffi Graf in 1988.
She will be heavily favoured to reach an eighth Wimbledon final given her dominance against Sharapova, who will need every trick up her sleeve to beat the American for the first time in 11 years.
-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova was forced to swat away claims of gamesmanship during her hard-fought 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 6-2 last eight victory over Coco Vandeweghe.
She took two hours and 45 minutes before finally defeating unseeded Vandeweghe to reach her fifth Wimbledon semi-final and her first since 2011.
But the 28-year-old was accused of unsporting behaviour by Vandeweghe, who was unhappy that Sharapova was moving during the American’s service action.
“She (the umpire) said she didn’t believe she was doing it during the motion. I strongly disagreed. Towards the later end of the second set, I said if she has a problem speaking to Maria, if she’s too scared to do it, I had no problem speaking to her,” Vandeweghe said.
“What I felt from her moving around in between my serving motion was not, I don’t think, sportsmanlike. I try to play as fair as I can.”
But Sharapova insisted she was doing nothing out of the ordinary.
“It is what it is. What she said, I’m not going to argue against her words,” she said.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 7, 2015
The other semi-final pits 2012 Wimbledon runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska against 20th seed Garbine Muguruza.
Radwanska, the Polish 13th seed, defeated American 21st seed Madison Keys 7-6 (7/3), 3-6, 6-3 on Court One.
The 26-year-old will be making her fourth Grand Slam semi-final appearance and her third at Wimbledon.
“It cannot be any better. I’m just so happy I could stay in that match. It was very tight,” Radwanska said.
Muguruza beat Swiss 15th seed Timea Bacsinszky 7-5, 6-3 to become the first Spanish woman to make the Wimbledon semi-finals since Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in 1997.
The 21-year-old, born in Venezuela but raised as a tennis prodigy in Barcelona, had never before made the semi-finals of a Grand Slam.
Goran Ivanisevic believes people should cut Nick Kyrgios some slack, the Croatian legend admitting that he himself tanked during matches when he was a player.
Kyrgios, who exited Wimbledon in the fourth round with a tight four-set loss to Richard Gasquet on Monday, was booed on court by some fans when he appeared to not try to return his French opponent’s serves during the third game of the second set.
The Aussie then fought back to win the third set and had set points to win the fourth and force a decider before succumbing to Gasquet.
The ITF Official Grand Slam Rule Book states that: “A player shall use his best efforts to win a match when competing in a Grand Slam Tournament. Violation of this section shall subject a player to a fine up to $20,000 for each violation.”
There were two fines handed out by the tournament’s referee’s office for that match – one $2,000 to Kyrgios for audible obscenity – he cursed on court when he got broken early in the second set – and one $3,000 fine to Gasquet for smashing his racquet after dropping the third set.
Throwing a racket, brat. Debating the rules, disrespectful. Frustrated when competing, spoilt. Showing emotion,… http://t.co/QDvnaUNYxZ
— Nicholas Kyrgios (@NickKyrgios) July 7, 2015
Kyrgios did not receive a code violation for not giving his best effort and the referees office have stated no more fines will be handed out.
Ivanisevic, a Wimbledon champion in 2001, believes Kyrgios is being unfairly criticised.
“(Tanking that one game) was bad, but I did that so many times so I’m not the guy you should ask about that. It can happen when you flip a little bit,” Ivanisevic told Sport360. “It’s not fair to the crowd, to the opponent it’s not nice – I have to say because I did it and I’m not proud of that. But he’s young. You always learn from your mistakes.
“Hopefully he doesn’t do that again. If he does it like 10 times then it’s bad but if he does it one time, don’t kill the guy.
“Now they’re putting him on the cross like they’re going to kill him. He’s young, he’s a good tennis player, he’s fun. Let him be. He’s going to learn from his mistakes, he’s going to pay for his mistakes. He’s going to change.”
Kyrgios has been at the centre of several controversies this fortnight at Wimbledon particularly regarding his behaviour on court and his run-ins with the umpires. But Ivanisevic feels the 20-year-old’s fiery character is good for the sport.
“It’s a good thing. They complain that there aren’t too many characters in tennis, they complain it’s boring, and then you have a character now, it’s not good again? How are you going to please everybody?”
Gasquet said he had “no problem” with Kyrgios while Roger Federer weighed in on the situation and said he felt the match was a hotly-contested fourth round.
“In my opinion, it was a great match and it was close. The fans got their money’s worth, in my opinion,” said the Swiss.
Kyrgios was visibly upset during his press conference, saying he felt “misunderstood” and alluded to the fact that the negative media reaction to him had taken its toll.
“He’s young, he’s a good player, he’s fun. Let him be” – Ivanisevic
“There’s a lot of things going on at the moment that aren’t focusing on actual tennis. There’s just a lot of stuff going on,” he said.
Andy Murray, one of Kyrgios’ early supporters, knows a thing or two about facing the media from a young age and had some words of advice for the world No29.
“Just try to be yourself and not listen too much to what the media say sometimes because I can imagine for him right now it’s very difficult,” said Murray.
“Every day there’s something different getting said. Some people like the way he behaves, some people don’t. When you’re 19, you don’t know exactly who you are at that age. You just need a bit of time to develop. But he’ll be fine, I’m sure.”
*As ambassadors for HSBC, the official banking partner of the Championships, Goran Ivanisevic, Tim Henman and Lindsay Davenport took local children from Bishop Gilpin Church of England Primary School for a coaching session on HSBC Court 20 as part of the bank’s grassroots initiatives
Novak Djokovic admits his come-from-behind five-set win over Kevin Anderson in the fourth round was one of the toughest matches of his Wimbledon career.
Djokovic had to dig deep to complete a two-day 6-7, (6), 6-7 (6), 6-1, 6-4, 7-5 victory over the 14th-seeded South African, surviving a barrage of 40 aces in the process.
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The world No1 reached his 25th consecutive grand slam quarter-final with a win in a three-hour 47-minute contest, that started on Monday and was completed on Tuesday after getting suspended for darkness the night before.
It was the first since the 2012 French Open where Djokovic has come back from two sets down to win a match.
“Kevin served exceptionally well. I find it that this was one of the most difficult matches I played in Wimbledon in my career,” said Djokovic, who takes on No9 seed Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.
“I was helpless on my return.
“I was two sets down, to come back and win in five definitely gives me great satisfaction and confidence for the next challenge.”
Anderson became the first player in the Open Era to have reached the round of 16 at a grand slam seven times and never gone on to reach the quarter-finals.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 7, 2015
Returning to play the fifth set on Tuesday, a few showers delayed the start of the match for about half an hour as players were ushered back in and the courts were covered when the action was due to start.
But the rain subsided and play commenced at 13:35 with Anderson serving first in the deciding fifth set against Djokovic.
Anderson almost blew away a 40-0 lead in the third game but he held on and aced his way to 2-1, with special thanks to Hawk-Eye which showed one of the South African’s aces was just in.
Djokovic double-faulted to start the next game and he was soon facing two break points. Anderson was on the run and sent a forehand long on the first one and fired another ball just long to help Djokovic back to deuce and the world No1 went on to hold for 2-all.
Anderson held to love to inch ahead 3-2 and continued to put Djokovic under pressure, getting a 30-all point on the Serb’s serve by out-rallying him in incredible fashion. But the defending champion still hung on.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 7, 2015
Meanwhile, Anderson again had a love-hold to heap the pressure on Djokovic’s side once again.
The set remained on serve and Djokovic passed his first real test when he served to stay in the tournament and held to love for 5-5.
Anderson hit his first double fault of the set while serving in game 11 and committed another one to go down 15-40. A good Djokovic return caught Anderson at his feet at the net and the South African was broken.
Two nervy returns on two Djokovic second serves gave the top seed his first match point and he completed his comeback win by charging to the net and watching a defensive Anderson shot sail long.
It was Novak Djokovic’s 23rd grand slam five-set win, pulling level with Marat Safin and Todd Martin for fifth among Open Era leaders.