‘Happy to still be here’

Ser­ena Wil­liams ral­lies past Vic­to­ria Azarenka in quar­ter-fi­nals at Wim­ble­don

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY HOWARD FEN­DRICH

Even as Ser­ena Wil­liams piled up aces and ground­stroke win­ners from all an­gles, even as she stormed through seven games in a row and 10 of the last 13 in yet another come­back, her Wim­ble­don quar­ter-fi­nal against Vic­to­ria Azarenka never felt like a run­away.

That’s be­cause Azarenka, a two-time ma­jor cham­pion and for­mer No. 1 in her own right, was play­ing spec­tac­u­lar ten­nis, too, nearly the equal of Wil­liams in ev­ery facet. Nearly. For when Wil­liams finds her best game, she be­comes un­beat­able. And for her past 26 Grand Slam matches she is, in­deed, un­beaten. Eras­ing an early deficit at Cen­tre Court, Wil­liams got past Azarenka 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 Tues­day with the help of 17 aces and a re­mark­able ra­tio of 46 win­ners to 12 un­forced er­rors.

“It’s been up and down, up and down, but some­how I’m still alive. I don’t know how,” said Wil­liams, who twice was two points from los­ing to Bri­tain’s Heather Wat­son in the third round and is now 14-0 in three-set­ters and 37-1 over­all in 2015. “So we’ll see what hap­pens, but I’m just happy to still be here.”

She is clos­ing in on a fourth con­sec­u­tive ma­jor ti­tle for a self­styled Ser­ena Slam, which she al­ready ac­com­plished in 200203. Pull that off, and Wil­liams also will have the third leg of a cal­en­dar-year Grand Slam and go to the U.S. Open with a chance to be­come the first player since St­effi Graf in 1988 to win all four ma­jor tro­phies in one sea­son.

“I haven’t seen her play like this, hon­estly,” said Azarenka, who has lost 17 of 20 matches against Wil­liams and all 10 meet­ings at ma­jors, in­clud­ing af­ter lead­ing by a set and a break at the French Open in May.

In Thurs­day’s semi­fi­nals, No. 1 Wil­liams faces No. 4 Maria Shara­pova, who beat un­seeded Amer­i­can Co-Co Vandeweghe 63, 6-7 (3), 6-2.

Wil­liams is 17-2 against Shara­pova, in­clud­ing 16 straight vic­to­ries. But one of Shara­pova’s wins came at Wim­ble­don, in the 2004 fi­nal, when at age 17 she stunned Wil­liams for the first of her five Grand Slam ti­tles.

“Def­i­nitely no se­crets be­tween each other’s games,” Shara­pova said.

Wil­liams, whose ma­jor tro­phy count is at 20, said of the matchup: “I look for­ward to it.”

Here was the scout­ing re­port from Wil­liams’ coach, Pa­trick Mouratoglou: “If she plays like to­day, I don’t think any­one can com­pete.”

Pick an ad­jec­tive for Wil­liams-Azarenka. In­tense. Riv­et­ing. En­ter­tain­ing. Sublime. For 2 hours, 4 min­utes on a windy, cloudy day, that’s what this was. Both hit the ball hard. Both cov­ered the court from cor­ner to cor­ner.

“We put on a great show,” Azarenka said.

The other semi­fi­nal is No. 13 Ag­nieszka Rad­wan­ska of Poland against No. 20 Gar­bine Mugu­ruza of Spain.

The men’s quar­ter-fi­nals are Wed­nes­day: Novak Djokovic vs. Marin Cilic, Roger Fed­erer vs. Gilles Si­mon, Andy Mur­ray vs. Van­cou­ver’s Vasek Pospisil, and Stan Wawrinka vs. Richard Gas­quet. Djokovic fin­ished his 6-7 (6), 6-7 (6), 6-1, 6-4, 7-5 fourthround vic­tory over Kevin An­der­son on Tues­day; it was sus­pended be­cause of dark­ness af­ter four sets Mon­day.

Rad­wan­ska, the 2012 run­nerup, elim­i­nated No. 21 Madi­son Keys of the United States 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3. Mugu­ruza reached her first ma­jor semi­fi­nal by de­feat­ing No. 15 Timea Bac­sin­szky of Switzer­land 7-5, 6-3.

AP PHOTO

Ser­ena Wil­liams jumps as she cel­e­brates win­ning her quar­ter-fi­nal sin­gles match against Vic­to­ria Azarenka at the All Eng­land Lawn Ten­nis Cham­pi­onships at Wim­ble­don in Lon­don on Tues­day.

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