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Serena Williams battles into twelfth Wimbledon semifinal in gritty win over determined Riske

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 9 Jul 2019
  • Serena Williams is into the semifinals of Wimbledon for the 12th time
  • Seven-time champion Williams beat Alison Riske 6-4, 4-6, 6-3
  • Williams: 'I wouldn't have won that match a couple of weeks ago'
Serena Williams celebrates victory over Alison Riske in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon 2019 (PA Sports)

Serena Williams is into the semifinals of Wimbledon for the twelfth time - but only after a terrific battle.

Seven-time champion Serena Williams has reached the Wimbledon semifinals once more but was made to work extremely hard by her compatriot Alison Riske.

Riske knocked out world no. 1 Ashleigh Barty in the previous round and brought the same form to Centre Court on Tuesday, giving Williams all she could handle before the 23-time Grand Slam champion prevailed 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Williams slips late in the third set (PA Sport)
Williams is now just two matches away from levelling Margaret Court's all-time record of 24 Grand Slams. She is already the outright record-holder for most major titles in the professional Open Era.

The tenth seed came into the match on a seven-match winning streak in Wimbledon quarterfinals, with her last defeat at this stage coming to Justine Henin in 2007, and not having dropped a set since the opening set against Kaja Juvan in the second round. But it was apparent from the early stages that Williams would not be having things all her own way. After Riske held for 1-1, the pair got into their first real groundstroke exchange and it was evident that Riske had brought her flat, deep shots off both wings - uniquely suited to grass courts, on which Riske is 14-1 in 2019 - from the Barty match to this Centre Court clash. 

Two deep returns from Riske saw her break to lead 2-1, but Williams levelled the first set for 3-3 after making a deft volley into the open court. Riske bounced right back, striking a clean backhand return winner off a Williams second serve; Williams returned the favour to level again at 4-4, before an excellent returning game got her to set point and a testing forehand elicited a high volley error from Riske to see the tenth seed lead 6-4.

The second set went with serve, but increasingly it was Riske exerting pressure on Williams's serve and not the other way around. At 4-4, that pressure told. Riske struck an excellent forehand winner down the line to create break point and converted with an audacious foray to the net, pulling off a delicate half-volley to break, before serving the second set out in confident style.

Williams and Riske meet at the net (PA Sports)
Riske had come from a set down in three of her four Wimbledon matches so far and brought all of that confidence and tenacity to the decider, breaking to open the third set with a clean backhand return winner and a drive volley. She could not consolidate, however, with a double fault that gave Williams the opportunity to attack with a return winner to peg her back. It was the first of three games in a row Williams won to lead 3-1, and she had points to lead 4-1, but Riske again surged back, breaking serve to level the set.

It was then that Williams put her hair up into a bun, an infallible sign that she is about to raise her game - and so she did. First she delivered a storming hold to love to lead 4-3, then climbed to 15-40 on Riske's serve. Riske saved both those break points and an additional one to boot, and when Williams slipped and fell hard, it seemed as if the world no. 55 might wriggle off the hook. But no: Williams did something she hadn't done all match on the very next point; she played a forehand drop shot. It wasn't the best drop shot - Riske chased it down - but Williams was ready to hit a volley into the open court. Break point no. 4 in the game, and Williams used the same play. It was executed clumsily, and the ensuing volley was trickier to make, but make it she did. 

Williams would serve the match out, sealing it with her nineteenth ace.

'It was really satisfying,' Williams said afterwards. 'I wouldn't have won that match a couple of weeks ago.

'I'm glad I was able to come through. She was honestly playing amazing, she beat so many great players. I was really pumped, it was for a place in the semis at Wimbledon and that doesn't happen every day. It's a long, arduous road.'

Williams will face Great Britain's Johanna Konta or Czech Republic's Barbora Strycova for a place in the final. She has a 10-1 record in Wimbledon semifinals and last lost one to sister Venus in the year 2000.

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Serena Williams battles into twelfth Wimbledon semifinal in gritty win over determined Riske

Seven-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams is into the semifinals once again after surviving a second-set comeback from an inspired Alison Riske, who gave Williams all she could handle before Williams raised her game for 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 victory

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