Wimbledon 2015: Serena Williams to face Maria Sharapova in semis

By Piers NewberyBBC Sport at Wimbledon
Highlights - Williams powers past Azarenka
Wimbledon 2015
Dates: Until 12 July
Play: 11:30 BST outside courts; 13:00 Centre Court and Court One
BBC coverage: Live across TV, radio and online with up to 15 live streams

Top seed Serena Williams kept alive her hopes of a sixth Wimbledon title and a possible calendar Grand Slam with a three-set win over Victoria Azarenka.

The American, 33, won a high-quality quarter-final 3-6 6-2 6-3 in front of 15,000 spectators on Centre Court.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion has now won 26 matches in a row at the majors stretching back to Wimbledon 2014.

Williams goes on to face Russian fourth seed Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals on Thursday.

Tracy Austin, two-time US Open champion
"That was an incredibly high-quality match. Everyone was up on their feet at the conclusion of a match that was by far the best of the tournament. It's great to see Victoria back playing at this level as it's been a while. Serena is two matches away from another Grand Slam."

She is now two wins from holding all four major singles titles, and closer to becoming the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1988 to win all four in one year, but afterwards continued her policy of not talking about the subject, saying "no Slam talk".

Williams and Sharapova will meet for the 20th time, with the American having won the last 16 encounters.

"It's been a while but she's been playing really well, she's such a fighter," Williams told BBC Sport.

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"I look forward to it. I don't have anything to lose, I'm just going in there trying to win a match."

Spanish 20th seed Garbine Muguruza will play Poland's former finalist Agnieszka Radwanska, the 13th seed, in the other semi-final.

Serena still on course

Williams came through one of the toughest tests she has faced while picking up titles at the US, Australian and French Opens to keep her amazing Grand Slam run going.

Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka
Williams won seven games in a row to take charge of her quarter-final against Azarenka

The American hit 17 aces and 46 winners to overcome Azarenka in an intense contest that lasted two hours and five minutes.

"It was really fun out there," said Williams. "I was smiling at one point and I saw Victoria smiling as well. We both really enjoyed it.

"It's been up and down, up and down, but somehow I'm still alive. I'm just happy to be here."

Azarenka knew she could trouble Williams, having taken her to three sets twice during the recent clay-court season and squandering three match points against the American in Madrid.

After surviving some early pressure on serve, the Belarusian broke for 3-1 after her power drew an error and then converted her third set point with a raking forehand winner.

The standard of hitting was remarkable, each putting the other under huge pressure on serve early in the second.

Azarenka fought off three break points in game four, Williams then saved herself with a big serve and a backhand in game five.

The key moment came when Williams broke to lead 4-2 with a dipping backhand, setting up a run of seven straight games that effectively decided the match.

Azarenka threatened to break back when offered one last chance as Williams served for the match, but almost inevitably the world number one found an ace to see off the danger and sealed victory moments later.

Sharapova back in the last four

Former champion Sharapova withstood some heavy hitting from American Coco Vandeweghe to reach her fifth Wimbledon semi-final.

The fourth seed was under pressure after losing the second set but recovered to beat the world number 47 6-3 6-7 (3-7) 6-2 in the opening match on Centre Court.

"You have to give everything," said the 2004 winner.

Tracy Austin, two-time US Open champion
"Coco performed very well. Big things will be expected from Coco in the future with a result like this. Sharapova loves the challenge of a situation like this. She loves to be able to problem solve and always seems to be able to figure it out."

"You are playing in a Wimbledon quarter-final. It's been a while since I have been in a semi at Wimbledon. I was pleased to win and it gives me a lot of confidence."

Sharapova found it hard going against Vandeweghe, who impressed in her first Grand Slam quarter-final as she hit 32 winners and dominated many of the baseline exchanges.

Five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova was tested from the outset and survived a seven-minute opening game that included four break points.

The Russian proved the more clinical, however, breaking twice in three games to take control of the first set and again to love early in the second.

Highlights: Sharapova into semis

After working her way to within sight of victory, Sharapova dropped serve to love and a fired-up Vandeweghe dominated the tie-break to set up a decider.

Again, Sharapova's experience showed as she broke three times in the final set, attacking the Vandeweghe first serve with more success to close it out after two hours and 46 minutes.

"I was pretty dominant in the first set and the beginning of the second but things slipped away after that and I had to regroup," said Sharapova, who is through to her first Wimbledon semi-final since 2011.

"My opponent was full of confidence so I knew it was going to be a tough match.

"You're in a position to win it and sometimes it doesn't quite go your way. You have to go back to what worked for you in the first set."