Serena sneaks into quarters

Serena sneaks into quarters

Serena Williams has reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals for the fifth time in six years, but only after again being extended to three sets.

After Saturday’s epic defeat of Zheng Jie, the four-time champion was pushed by wildcard Yaroslava Shvedova before surviving, not all that convincingly, 6-1, 2-6, 7-5.

For a time, as reigning champion Petra Kvitova also flirted with an early exit, the upsets and narrow escapes in the men’s draw threatened to bleed into the women’s event, where Australian Sam Stosur had been the highest seed eliminated in the opening week.

But just as Kvitova overcame a wasteful and erratic start to her danger match against canny Italian veteran Francesca Shiavone to advance 4-6, 7-5, 6-1, Williams was able to eke out a hard-fought victory in almost two hours against the improving Kazhak who had played the only perfect set recorded in the history of women’s tennis in the previous round.

Rain having delayed the start of so-called Magic Monday, which features all 16 players left in each singles draw, it appeared that Williams would make short work of Shvedova. But the last two sets continued the testing mid-tournament run for the 13-time major winner, who was stunned in the first round at Roland Garros four weeks ago, but has avoided – or at least postponed – a deepening grand slam crisis.

Shvedova was one of four unseeded players to reach the round-of-16, and one of nine not to have dropped a set en route. Her most famous was the so-called “golden set”, in which she – apparently unwittingly- won all 24 points against Sara Errani and matched a feat previously achieved only by American Bill Scanlon back in 1983.

But the Russian-born Kazhak took only two points to lose her first against Serena, who swept through the first five games. Williams was saved by her serve several times during the opening week, most notably with a personal- and tournament-best 23 aces during her three-set scare against Zheng Jie in the third round. Last night, her groundstrokes proved more reliable, as her serving level dipped slightly, and she continues to struggle slightly with her movement. But the American was able to finish off the match as the rain intervened elsewhere at the All England Club.

“I didn’t want to lose today and I knew the whole match I could play better,” said Williams, 30, who hit 35 winners to 13 unforced errors to remain the only multiple Wimbledon winner in the women’s draw.  “I feel fine, I’m not tired, I’m not anything. The important thing is I know I can play so much better than I have been playing, and I know if I couldn’t it would be a problem.”

Williams today plays Kvitova in a rematch of the 2010 semi-final at the All England Club, the young left-hander’s breakout event, which was also the scene of Williams’ most recent grand slam title. She has not dropped a set in two matches against Kvitova, who ran through eight of the last nine games against Schiavone to close out her 11th consecutive Wimbledon win.

Austrian Tamira Paszek was the first player to reach the quarter-finals, the world No.37 matching her 2011 effort by beating 21st seed Roberta Vinci 6-2, 6-2 in a match of eight service breaks.

Paszek, the Eastbourne champion, upset former No.1 Caroline Wozniacki in the first round, and has now won nine consecutive matches on grass.

She was to play either Victoria Azarenka or Ana Ivanovic for a place in the semis.

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