LONDON—Serena Williams vs. Maria Sharapova. No, unfortunately, that is not the final. The two will play against each other in Wimbledon’s semifinals on Thursday.
It took almost three hours, but Maria Sharapova advanced to the semifinals after she defeated young American CoCo Vandeweghe. It was the first time Sharapova appeared in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon since 2011.
While Vandeweghe did not advance, she forced Sharapova to drop her first set of the tournament. Previously, Sharapova only lost 23 games. She lost 12 in the sets and seven in the tiebreak in the second set.
She dominated the first set, despite her five double faults and ten unforced errors. Again, when it gets to this point of the tournament, the serve is the most precious part of the match. Sharapova faced seven break points, but managed to protect her serve except for one occasion. She broke Vandeweghe twice, which helped win the set.
The second set was filled with drama as both players stacked up evenly. The stats are almost identical, but with momentum and the crowd behind her, Vandeweghe erased Sharapova’s lead and salvaged the set to force a tiebreak. Vandeweghe went up 3-1 in the tiebreak, Sharapova tied it up, but Vandeweghe went off on four straight points. With fist-pumps and screams, Vandeweghe sauntered back to her seat after she told the world she is for real.
But that is where she stopped. While she gained the upper hand a few times in the third set, Sharapova showed experience truly matters in the Grand Slams. She broke Vandeweghe three times, played a cleaner game, slammed three aces, and charged the net. However, she thinks she could improve in some areas.
“Well, I think as the tournament goes on, I’ve played five matches already, I’ve faced different challenges, matches, opponents, circumstances,” she said. “The first four I played quite well and got the job done in two sets. Today serving for the second set, could have made it easier for myself. Went into the third. I still got the job done. I have to be pleased with that, that I’m in the position of being in a semifinal again after these many years.”
Williams reached her first Wimbledon quarterfinal since 2012. She played against Victoria Azarenka, who is making a huge statement after missing the majority of 2014 due to an injury. Even though she lost, she showed in the first set she is ready to be a force on the circuit. Clean serves. Scored all four net points. Breaking Serena’s serve.
But this is Serena Williams. She does not go down without a fight. After a struggle in the first set, she came out on fire with a clean serve and remembered to volley. She won all seven net points she faced while breaking Azarenka two times. But Azarenka still acted as a thorn in her side. First off, yes, Williams broke her two times, but Azarenka also fought off four break points. She attempted to break Williams three times, but failed. Williams only got better in the third set as 73% of her first serves went in compared to Azarenka’s 59%. Yet, she believes she needs to work on her serves before she meets Sharapova.
“I like to believe and hope I can serve better,” said Williams. “But, I mean, I always try to serve big on grass. So I don’t know. I mean, that’s my game on grass, just aces. I think everyone tries to do that.”
Williams is the last player to win Wimbledon and Roland Garros in the same year. That was in 2002. She is only two wins away from her fourth Grand Slam in a row. Plus, if she wins Wimbledon, she will be 75% of the way to a calendar Grand Slam.