All smiles as Serena downs Azarenka to reach semis

Tue Jul 7, 2015 4:55pm EDT
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By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - Serena Williams reached her ninth Wimbledon semi-final after subduing inspired former world number one Victoria Azarenka in the best women's match of the tournament so far on Tuesday.

Both players came out with music pumping through headphones and they proceeded to deliver a high-powered slugfest on the Centre Court grass as Williams hit back to win 3-6 6-2 6-3.

Belarussian Azarenka, who once spent 51 weeks on top of the rankings and who is returning to her best after a serious foot injury stalled her career, dominated the opening set, but could not sustain the tempo as Williams found another gear.

The world number one struck 46 winners, including 17 aces, as she took her record over Azarenka to 17-3 and she can now set her sights on Maria Sharapova in Thursday's semi-final -- a player she has beaten 16 times in succession.

The 33-year-old American, bidding for a sixth Wimbledon crown and 21st grand slam singles title, not to mention a fabled calendar-year grand slam after winning the Australian and French Opens, looked unstoppable by the end.

But she knew she had been in a fight against a player she respects and regards as something of a yardstick of her form.

"I feel like me and Victoria always have really wonderful matches," Williams said after her 41st grand slam quarter-final.

"She's always able to push it to three sets. We always have some great three-set matches.   Continued...

Serena Williams of the U.S.A. celebrates after winning her match against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, July 7, 2015.                           REUTERS/Toby Melville