Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Serena lashes record 24 aces in semifinal win

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WIMBLEDON, England -- Serena Williams wins with so much more than serving, of course.

Her groundstrokes are intimidating. Her superb speed and anticipation fuel unparalleled court-covering defence. Her returns are outstanding, too.

When that serve is on-target, though, it sure is something special, quite possibly the greatest in the history of women's tennis. Lashing a tournament-record 24 aces at up to 120 mph, and doing plenty of other things well, too, four-time Wimbledon champion Williams overpowered No. 2-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-3, 7-6 (6) Thursday to reach her seventh final at the All England Club.

"Isn't that something?" said Williams' father, Richard, after watching his daughter win on Centre Court. "She was really trying, you know? Maybe she was trying to impress the neighbours back home."

On Saturday, the 30-year-old Williams will try to become the first woman at least that age to win a major tournament since Martina Navratilova, who was 33 when she won Wimbledon in 1990.

"The older I get, the better I serve, I feel," Williams said. "I don't know how it got better. I really don't know. It's not like I go home and I work on baskets and baskets of serves. Maybe it's a natural shot for me."

Her next opponent will be No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, who reached her first Grand Slam final at age 23 by playing steady as can be during a 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 8 Angelique Kerber of Germany.

"After a couple of games, I just relaxed a little bit," said Radwanska, who made only six unforced errors, one in the second set. "I was really focusing on every point."

Williams won 20 of her 24 service points in the first set, including 17 in a row during one stretch. She didn't double-fault once, a real accomplishment, given how often she went for corners and lines. She finished with a 45-14 edge in total winners.

"I honestly didn't feel great on my serve today. I really didn't," said Williams, who went back on court later Thursday with older sister Venus to reach the doubles semifinals. "I thought my serve was off, and apparently -- clearly -- it wasn't, so maybe I should be off a little more."

And this performance didn't come against a slouch: Azarenka won the Australian Open in January as part of a 26-0 start to this season, was playing in her third semifinal in the past five major tournaments, and would have returned to No. 1 in the rankings if she had beaten Williams.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 6, 2012 C5

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