Tennis

Simona Halep, Serena Williams set for collision course

Halep, Williams reach semi-finals after hard-fought wins, could meet in final

Simona Halep and Serena Williams are set for a collision course at the Wimbledon final, after both former world No. 1s swatted aside their opponents to book their place in the semi-finals yesterday.

Williams, 37, who is two wins away from equalling Margaret Court's Grand Slam singles title record haul of 24, defeated the unseeded Alison Riske 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

She will play either Britain's French Open semi-finalist Johanna Konta or Czech veteran Barbora Strycova for a place in the final.

Halep, 27, overcame an early onslaught to deliver another textbook example of matchplay tennis and dispatch China's unseeded Zhang Shuai 7-6 (7/4), 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.

The seventh-seeded Halep will next face eighth seed Elina Svitolina, who defeated the unseeded Karolina Muchova 7-5, 6-4.

Halep will be bidding 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 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.

WELL-BEATEN

She clung on enough to get to a tie-break, but was well-beaten in it and an early break in the second set put Halep 3-1 up.

Zhang's head then dropped and the errors flowed as Halep rattled through the remaining games at a canter.

Williams, on the other hand, served out her match against Riske with an ace to seal her 97th win at Wimbledon and avoid the same fate as world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, who lost to Riske on Monday.

"I wouldn't have won that match a couple of weeks ago," said Williams, whose time on court since the Australian Open in January has been limited by a niggling knee injury.

"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." - REUTERS, AFP

Tennis