Serena Williams and Simona Halep both moved into the Wimbledon semifinals, and a step closer to what appears to be a final showdown on Saturday.
Serena was faced with a first-time meeting against Alison Riske. The 29-year-old Riske showed no sign of nerves playing in her first Slam quarterfinal and against a 23-time winner as she jumped out to a quick 3-1 lead in the first. But Serena served her way back and powerfully took the first.
In the second, Riske settled in and began taking control of the backcourt. But it Serena’s serve was the best shot on the court and the 37-year-old rode eight more aces in the third to a tough 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win to reach her 12th Wimbledon semifinal.
“I just needed to just fight,” said Serena who finished with 19 aces. “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.”
Riske, a native of Pittsburgh, broke Serena five times and led with a break to start the third, but couldn’t handle Serena’s serve.
“I don’t know where I am,” Serena said. “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.”
Next for Serena will be the surprising Barbora Strycova. The 33-year-old Czech reached her first career Slam semifinal by stunning British No. 1 and former Wimbledon semifinalist Johanna Konta 7-6(5), 6-1.
“I was two years old when my grandpa took me to the [Wimbledon] museum,” Strycova said. “I saw the trophy. I was like, I’m going to play here. Right now here I’m 33, which is incredible. It’s a great story.
“My grandparents were living here for four years. I was coming here very often. London is my favourite city, so it’s nice.”
Konta led the Strycova 4-1 before losing control of the match after a slew of errors. Konta finished with 34 unforced errors to Strycova’s 9.
“I was nervous. I was kind of like, Wow, I’m here, I’m playing quarters against an English girl. I was feeling the nerves,” Strycova added.
“But when I was 4-1 down, I wasn’t playing bad, but I didn’t really play the way I wanted. But then I hold the serve, which was really important for me. Then I start moving better. So it helped me to break her.”
As for Serena, who she’s lost to three times, she’s not scared.
“I don’t have fear,” Strycova said. “I just will go there Thursday and I will try to play my game. Of course, I don’t have such a power like Serena, but I have another weapons. I will try to use them as much as I can. I will enjoy. I have really at this point nothing to lose.
“I will just go there and fight every point I can.”
Strycova’s countrywoman Karolina Muchova couldn’t join the veteran in the semis. The 22-year-old Muchova led Elina Svitolina 4-1 before the Ukraine caught fire winning five straight games. Svitolina also recovered from a break down in the second before winning 7-5, 6-4.
“It feels amazing, but I try to don’t think so much about it any more as I was trying to not think so much about that I couldn’t get the win before in quarterfinals,” said Svitolina. “So the tournament continues.
“I think I learned to be patient because I had lots of tough matches in quarterfinals. Few of them was very unlucky, I was not fit 100%.
“This is also experience, I would say, because you have to save some energy, you have to work smart, you have to schedule your practices, you have to do the right recovery, what works for you.
“This is just the way. You have to find your own way, what works for you, for your body, for your mind. I think it’s just experience. That’s what I really learned.”
Muchova said the 3 hour, 17 minute marathon win yesterday over Karolina Pliskova took its toll.
“I was obviously a little tired today, but still I think I could make it in the first set,” she said. “It was 5-2. My energy level was going down all the time. Somehow I couldn’t put it back – she played great, so it was tough then.
“I made quarterfinals of Wimbledon, so I beat good players. Yesterday we had awesome match with Kaja. It’s many positive things from this tournament for me. I will just keep going.”
After four failed attempts in quarterfinals., Svitolina is finally though to a first Grand Slam semifinal where she’ll face rival Simona Halep.
Halep also had a tough start. The former No. 1 was points from going down 5-1 in the first to Shuai Zhang but was able to regroup. Zhang beat Halep in the 2016 Australian Open and kept pressing Halep. But the Romanian stiffened and forced Zhang into errors. Halep advanced 7-6(4), 6-1 to her second Wimbledon semifinal and her first Slam semifinal since her 2018 French Open win.
“I expected her to play so well. She beat me the last two times that we played,” said Halep. “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.
“When she hits…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% for every ball, then I will break her rhythm a little bit. It happened in the second set.”
Svitolina leads Halep 4-3 in their series.
“We played many times. We played also many times after that quarterfinal,” Svitolina said. “I don’t really want to think about that one because it didn’t go my way. It was quite long time ago now.
“I think I’m a little bit different player now. It’s going to be interesting match. It’s the first time that we play in a semifinal. It’s going to be I think interesting for both of us. Hopefully I can bring my best game.
The women’s semifinals will be played on Thursday, but before then both Williams and Strycova are still involved in the doubles competitions.
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