Williams, the five-time Wimbledon winner, will play world No 20 Garbine Mugurza in the final having notched a 17th consecutive victory over her long-time rival Sharapova. The 6-2 6-4 win keeps the Australian and French Open winner’s dream of a calendar Grand Slam alive, with just victory in her hometown of New York at the US Open required.
Her dominance over the Russian dates back to 2004, the last time Sharapova beat her. In that year, she defeated Williams in the Wimbledon final but any hope of a repeat win at the same venue was quickly extinguished.
Sharapova got off to a poor start and couldn’t recover. She has not won a set against Williams for seven years. The American has won all three of their grass court meetings this year.
Williams broke Sharapova’s serve in the very first game in an ominous sign of things to come. The Russian valiantly fought in the next game and, at 2-0 down, hit an ace and demonstrated some deft play at the net to get on the scoreboard.
Three brutal serves, including two aces, put Williams 3-1 up and she broke again by gaining the upper hand in consecutive rallies before powering Sharapova’s serve back past her. Williams then easily moved 5-1 up and although Sharapova held for the second time, the American won the opening set in 33 minutes with the minimum of fuss.
Sharapova won the first game of the next set, clinching her fist in celebration after a forehand winner down the line, before putting up an admirable fight that was ultimately in vain in Williams’ next service game.
A drop shot indicated the Russian’s growing confidence and the first four games of the set were shared but Williams powered into another gear after scolding herself after the loss of a point.
She piled the pressure onto Sharapova’s serve, forcing errors leading to break point which was sealed with a double fault. Sharapova had nothing to challenge Williams’ next service game, relinquishing a 4-2 lead to her rival.
Williams appeared to close in on victory but lost two break points, allowing Sharapova to escape with her serve intact and just a 4-3 deficit. After holding serve, the 33-year-old lost match point but kept the atmosphere tense at deuce before two unforced errors allowed Sharapova the game.
But it always appeared a matter of time, and Williams completed the job with her next service game to set up a sixth opportunity to be crowned Wimbledon champion.
Williams will now aim to keep her calendar Grand Slam hopes alive on Sunday against Mugurza who beat Agnieszka Radwanska in her last four encounter.
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