WIMBLEDON: Serena rallies for three-set win, will face Sharapova in semifinals
LONDON — Serena Williams' latest Grand Slam match against Victoria Azarenka ended the same way as the previous nine — with Williams walking off as the winner.
The top-ranked Williams fought back from a set down Tuesday to beat Azarenka 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 on Centre Court to reach the Wimbledon semifinals and keep her bid alive for a fourth straight major title — a "Serena Slam."
Coming up with big serves when she needed them and getting stronger as the match wore on, Williams put on a dominant performance in the final two sets, winning seven straight games at one stretch, to run her Grand Slam winning streak to 26 matches.
"It's been up and down, up and down, but somehow I'm still alive," Williams said. "I don't know how. I'm just happy to be still here."
Williams hit 17 aces, including three in each of her final two service games, to extend her career record against Azarenka to 17-3 — including 10-0 in Grand Slam play.
"It was really fun out there," Williams said. "I found myself smiling at one point, and I saw Victoria smiling as well."
It's the first time Williams has reached the Wimbledon semifinals since 2012, when she won the last of her five titles at the All England Club.
Williams' next opponent will be Maria Sharapova, who beat unseeded American CoCo Vandeweghe in three sets. Williams holds a career 17-2 advantage against the Russian, including 16 wins in a row.
Williams lost to Sharapova in the 2004 Wimbledon final, when the Russian won her first Grand Slam title at the age of 17. The last time they met at Wimbledon, Williams won in straight sets in the fourth round in 2010.
"We haven't played each other at Wimbledon in a while but I look forward to it," Williams said. " I just really don't have anything to lose."
Sharapova looked ahead to another late-round showdown with Williams.
"Definitely no secrets between each other's games," she said. "That would be an incredible moment for me to step out on Centre Court against her again."
Williams is two wins away from winning her fourth consecutive major tournament, which would match the non-calendar Slam she last achieved in 2002-03. A victory in the U.S. Open would then be left to complete a true Grand Slam, which hasn't been accomplished since Steffi Graf won all four in the same year in 1988.
The other women's semifinal will be between 2012 runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland and No. 20 Garbine Muguruza of Spain.
The 13th-seeded Radwanska, who lost to Williams in the 2012 title match, beat Madison Keys of the United States 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3. The 21-year-old Muguruza downed Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland 7-5, 6-3 to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal, after making it to the quarterfinals at the last two French Opens.
Defending men's champion Novak Djokovic, meanwhile, survived a one-set shootout with big-serving Kevin Anderson to advance to the quarterfinals and keep up his bid for a third Wimbledon title.
After the match had been suspended by darkness at one set apiece, it took 45 minutes of play Tuesday for Djokovic to advance to his 25th consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal with a 6-7 (6), 6-7 (6), 6-1, 6-4, 7-5 victory.
Djokovic struggled throughout the match in trying to tame the 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) Anderson's huge serve, but broke him to go up 6-5 in the fifth set to set up his victory. Anderson finished with 40 aces.
"I find that this was one of the most difficult matches I've played at Wimbledon, maybe in my career," Djokovic said. "At times, I was really helpless with my return."
Djokovic will next face Croatia's Marin Cilic, a player he has beaten in all 12 of their previous matches.
In the other men's quarterfinals Wednesday, seven-time champion Roger Federer will play No. 12 Gilles Simon, 2013 champion Andy Murray will face Vasek Pospisil, and French Open winner Stan Wawrinka will be up against No. 21 Richard Gasquet.
The Williams-Azarenka match featured high-quality tennis and spectacular corner-to-corner rallies. Azarenka let out her high-pitched shrieks and Williams grunted at full volume.
Williams piled up a total of 46 winners and had only 12 unforced errors. Azarenka finished 20 winners and 11 errors.
Azarenka saved three break points to make it 2-2 in the second set in a game that went to deuce six times and lasted more than 10 minutes. From there, Williams stepped up her game and took control, running off seven straight games to go up 3-0 in the third.
Azarenka exhorted herself with loud shouts and pumped her fists after winners, but couldn't stop Williams from closing out the match.