Serena Williams won through to a 12th Wimbledon semifinal on Tuesday with an impressive victory over the in-form Alison Riske.
Williams was pushed to the limit by her fellow American before prevailing 6-4 4-6 6-3, a win she sealed with an ace down the T at 195km/h.
“I just needed to just fight,” Williams said.
“Alison, I mean, she played great throughout the whole tournament. She’s beaten so many amazing players, players that have had great years.”
“She was not giving it to me. I needed to step up and take it. That’s what I had to do.”
Williams next plays Barbora Strycova, who in the second quarterfinal on Centre Court recovered from 4-1 down in the opening set to beat Brit Johanna Konta.
Also advancing to the last four at Wimbledon was Simona Halep, after the No.7 seed also worked her way back from 4-1 down in the first set to beat China’s Zhang Shuai 7-6(4) 6-1.
Her next opponent will be No.8 seed Elina Svitolina, who reached her first Grand Slam semifinal thanks to a 7-5 6-4 win over Czech Karolina Muchova on No.1 Court.
Svitolina – who was also down 4-1 in the first set – will make her Centre Court debut when she takes on Halep for a place in the final.
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Riske arrived in her first major quarterfinal after a shock win on Monday over world No.1 Ash Barty to take her win-loss record on grass in 2019 to a stellar 14-1.
She hung with Williams for two hours of intense rallies and high-quality tennis before the 23-time Grand Slam champion eventually overpowered her.
“I wouldn’t have won that match a couple of weeks ago,” Williams admitted when she came off court and spoke with the BBC.
Indeed, Williams’ time on court in 2019 has been limited to just six tournaments and 16 completed matches as she has struggled with a persistent knee injury.
Yet as she often does, she has played her way into form throughout the first week at Wimbledon before stepping up a notch in a fourth-round demolition of Carla Suarez Navarro.
Riske had staged comebacks against three seeds this fortnight at the All England Club, beating Barty, Belinda Bencic and Donna Vekic after losing the first set.
And although she recovered to win the second against Williams, there was to be no miraculous recovery this time around.
After falling behind 3-1 only to then break Williams’s serve, Riske saved three break points only to throw in a costly double fault on the fourth to drop serve again in the eighth game.
Leading 5-3, Williams did not falter when her opportunity to serve out the match presented itself.
“I haven’t had a tremendous amount of time to prepare for this. Each and every match for me has to count as, like, five or 10 matches because I have not played a lot,” she said.
“This is the first time since Australia that I actually felt, like, good.
“I don’t know where I am. I do know I feel good. Now that I feel good, I can actually focus on training and technique and practice, something that I just literally haven’t been able to do a lot of.”
The Romanian former world No.1 continued her steady progress through the draw, winning 12 of the final 15 games to see off Zhang.
It was an even more impressive feat given the context; Zhang had beaten Halep in their past two meetings, including a first-round upset at Australian Open 2016 when Halep was the No.2 seed and Zhang was a qualifier.
Halep has dropped just one set in returning to the semifinals at the All England Club for the first time since 2014.
“I just came here relaxed. I came here motivated to see how good I can be on grass. I’m happy on court. I think this helps me a lot,” she said,
“She (Zhang) beat me the last two times that we played. I was a little bit nervous before the match, a little bit stressed. I knew that she’s going to come and hit the balls very strong. Also when she hits them, the ball doesn’t bounce that much. It’s really tough to return.
“But I kept fighting. I knew that I have to be 100 per cent for every ball, then I will break her rhythm a little bit. It happened in the second set.
“I really believed that I’m still in the (first) set. If the score would have been, like, 5-1, I think the set would have been gone. I just kept motivating myself and believed that I can turn it around.”
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