By Martyn Herman and Pritha Sarkar
Top seed Serena Williams overpowered Victoria Azarenka in an absorbing Wimbledon quarter-final on Tuesday, recovering from a set down to win 3-6 6-2 6-3.
The American, who will face Russia’s Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals, is two wins away from holding all four grand slam titles concurrently – the so-called ‘Serena Slam’ she also achieved in 2002-03.
The 33-year-old was second best in the first set against the Belarussian former world number one on Centre Court, but she found an extra gear and dominated thereafter.
Three consecutive aces at 4-2 in the third set moved her to within a game of victory and although 23rd seed Azarenka hung on and threatened to break back, Williams would not be denied and stayed on course for a 21st grand slam title.
“It was fun out there and I saw Victoria smiling as well, we both really enjoyed it,” five-time Wimbledon champion Williams, who has won 26 grand slam matches in a row, said in a TV interview.
Out on Court One, Agnieszka Radwanska made her wealth of grass court experience count as she dispatched American hope Madison Keys 7-6(3) 3-6 6-3 to reach the semi-finals for the third time in four years.
The 2012 runner-up, who at 13 is the highest seed left in the bottom half of the draw, needed six set points to seal the first set while the second set slipped from her grasp after a bouncing net cord handed her 20-year-old rival a break in the eighth game.
Keys, one of three Americans to reach the women’s quarter-finals along with world number one Serena Williams and Coco Vandeweghe, produced a 106mph thunderbolt to draw level.
That was one of 12 aces she fired down on Tuesday which prompted John McEnroe to observe: “That serve of hers is such a big weapon. It can save her”.
However, being the tournament’s leading ace lady – with a total of 59 – could not carry her over the finishing line.
Poland’s Radwanska inched closer to victory by breaking in the eighth game of the decider and finished Keys off with a forehand winner.
She will meet Garbine Muguruza in Thursday’s semi-final.