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Serena overcomes her big Riske

SEMI FINAL DATE: Serena Williams

SERENA WILLIAMS, the legendary American icon, put her hefty fine by the All England Club behind her to edge closer to an eighth Wimbledon Singles Crown.

The veteran, competing in only her sixth WTA Tour this season, squeezed past compatriot Alison Riske 6-4 4-6 6-3 on Tuesday (Jul 9) to claim her semi-final berth.

Williams had earlier in the day been issued with a £7,988 fine for damaging a Wimbledon court with her racquet during a practice session before The Championships.

But her attention was focused away from her controversial behaviour and towards her bid to rewrite the history books for her amazing achievements.

It proved to be a topsy-turvy two-hour contest of generally high quality play in the first ever meeting between the pair, and Williams moved closer to bagging a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam Singles crown.

Yet 29-year-old Riske gave Williams a scare on Centre Court in her inaugural Grand Slam quarter-final until an explosive finale.

Grass specialist Riske, a single-minded aggressor, accounted for newly crowned world no.1 Ashleigh Barty the previous day and her power game gave Williams the runaround from start to virtually the finish.

Riske, who suffered only her second defeat in 15 grass matches this year, did not allow her illustrious opponent to dominate until 3-3 in the final set.

A telling factor was that the longer the rally went on the more likely Riske would win the point, which made for terrific entertainment for the sun-drenched crowd.

Williams made a cagey start and was broken in the third game. But in the sixth game her weapons finally appeared, with her booming forehand toying her unseeded opponent and sealing the precious break point with a simple volley into a gaping court to level at 3-3.

Roaring power from both players were cleverly utilised against their fizzing serves to surprisingly break each other.

Williams held her serve to love and then resorted to percentage tennis in the next game, which proved enough to snatch the set despite having twice been broken.

The crowd took a shine to Riske in the second set, and enjoyed the burst of brilliance by both squeezing the best out of each other. Williams was very intense and was highly delighted with herself after thumping down an ace to edge ahead 2-1.

The pair went toe-to-toe, holding serve, and Riske introducing a new variety of shots to try to unnerve the former world no.1.

Riske's tactics worked a treat to break Williams in the ninth game. On break point she pounced on the second serve, smoothly raced to the net and tickled over a half-volley winner that made the crowd go wild.

By holding her serve to love, Riske forced a third set and there appeared to be a danger of another upset on the cards.

Riske made it three games on the bounce to break Williams in the opening game of the decisive set, pouncing on every error to punish these with aplomb.

But fiesty Williams fought back by running riot in the next two games, sending down a thunderous ace to move 2-1 ahead.

The first wobble from Riske gifted Williams a two-game cushion with a double fault.

Yet Riske immediately bounced back to take the next two games and level matters. Williams appeared tired for the first time, and was totally lacklustre on her serve and then demolished, to leave the result on a knife-edge.

When it mattered, like all true champions, Williams moved through the gears and hit cruise control to reel off the next three games. With all guns blazing she romped into the semi-finals with a whopping ace down the middle to claim a hard-fought 120-minute victory.

And 37-year-old Williams, who claims that she has recently been inspired by the US capturing the Women's World Cup, remains on course in her chase to claim an historic joint record of 24 Grand Slam Singles titles.

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