LONDON, July 9: Former world number one Simona Halep reached her second Wimbledon semi-final on Tuesday after overcoming an early onslaught to deliver another textbook example of matchplay tennis and dispatch China’s unseeded Zhang Shuai 7-6(4), 6-1.
Just as she did in quelling the lively challenge of 15-year-old Coco Gauff on Monday, Halep initially struggled and looked in real danger when 4-1 down and facing more break points in the opening set. However, the Romanian dug in to see off the threat then played her usual percentage tennis as Zhang lost her way.
Seventh-seed Halep will now face either number eight seed Elina Svitolina or unseeded Karolina Muchova as she bids to reach the final for the first time having lost to Eugenie Bouchard in the last four in 2014.
“I fought hard in the first set, even if I knew I was 4-1 and she was hitting hard, I knew she would hit with a lot of power. I knew I would have to play aggressively and I did it great,” she said.
“I have energy, I feel fresh and confident and I am perhaps playing my best tennis on grass.”
Zhang is ranked 50th and has reached the quarter-finals in only one Grand Slam event – the 2016 Australian Open.
However, she started superbly, serving and returning with depth, power and confidence to break in the second game and race to a 4-1 lead. That looked set to be 5-1 but Halep battled and chased to save four break points in the game and turn the match.
The 27-year-old Romanian, last year’s French Open champion, began to find her own rhythm, delivering the calculated low-risk groundstrokes that wore down American Gauff on Monday to hold, then broke back via a double fault.
Zhang’s double-handed backhand, so deadly in the opening games, began to pepper the tramlines as the inconsistency indicated by her poor Grand Slam record became evident.
Seven-time champion Serena Williams reached her 12th Wimbledon semi-final on Tuesday with a hard fought 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 victory over unseeded American compatriot Alison Riske.
The 37-year-old Williams, who is two wins away from equalling Margaret Court’s Grand Slam singles title record haul of 24, looked far from convincing as Riske pushed her the whole way over an engrossing two-hour duel.
However, Williams served it out with an ace to seal her 97th win at Wimbledon and avoid the same fate as world number one Ashleigh Barty, who Riske beat on Monday.
“It was really satisfying,” said Williams, whose clay court season was affected by a knee injury.
“I wouldn’t have won that match a couple of weeks ago.
“I’m glad that I was able to come through. She beat so many great players. She was really so close to taking the win today.”
Williams, who moved into second place overall behind Martina Navratilova’s record of 120 Wimbledon match wins, was constantly cajoling herself and letting out roars of come on during the match as her sometimes leaden-footed performance threatened to undo her.
Having sealed the match she turned to the players box where amongst others she was supported by older sister Venus and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, and yelled, pumping her fists.Elina Svitolina came from a break down in both sets to beat Karolina Muchova 7-5, 6-4 at Wimbledon and reach her first Grand Slam semifinal.
Svitolina was down 4-1 in the opening set but broke back when Muchova served at 5-3 and won the next three games as well. In the second set, Muchova broke again for a 2-0 lead only for Svitolina to win the next five games.
Svitolina failed to serve out the match on her first attempt at 5-2 but later converted her first match point when Muchova missed a backhand return.
Svitolina had lost her previous four Grand Slam quarterfinals, including at this year’s Australian Open, while her previous best result at Wimbledon was reaching the fourth round in 2017. She will next play former No. 1 Simona Halep.
Muchova was trying to become the first woman since 1999 to reach the semifinals on her Wimbledon debut. (Agencies)
Wimbledon witnesses first 12-12 tiebreak
LONDON, July 9: Wimbledon got its first 12-12 final set tie-break on Tuesday when Henri Kontinen and John Peers defeated Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury in a men’s doubles match.
The eighth-seeded pair won 7-6 (7/2), 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 13-12 (7/2) in four hours and 29 minutes.
The third round match was suspended due to bad light on Monday and resumed Tuesday on the 1,750-seater Court 12 show court.
The All England Club introduced a final set tie-break this year as a means of eradicating marathon matches.
In 2018, Kevin Anderson defeated John Isner in the men’s semi-finals in the second-longest match ever at the Slams, at six hours and 36 minutes.
The final set, which alone lasted for two hours and 50 minutes, was only decided at 26-24.
The second semi-final, in which Novak Djokovic defeated Rafael Nadal 10-8 in the final set, took five hours and 15 minutes. (AFP)