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Sharapova Moves Into SFs

She had never fallen before the semifinals in Birmingham and that trend has continued.

Published June 11, 2010 12:00

Sharapova Moves Into SFs
Maria Sharapova

BIRMINGHAM, England - Grass courts have always been good to Maria Sharapova and this week has been no different, as the Russian improved to 55-10 on the surface with a 62 64 quarterfinal win over Sesil Karatantcheva.

Sharapova, the No.2 seed at the AEGON Classic, lost the first set she ever played against Karatantcheva way back in 2004 but had won their last six and improved that streak to eight straight sets with the one-hour, 12-minute win. Sharapova broke the Kazakh qualifier three times and never lost serve herself.

Sharapova's first huge breakthrough came at Wimbledon in 2004, when she went all the way to the title as a 17-year-old, the fourth-youngest Grand Slam champion in the Open Era (after Martina Hingis, Monica Seles and Tracy Austin). Lawn has been her best surface, with an 85% winning percentage (25-6 lifetime at Wimbledon and now 30-4 in Birmingham). She has never lost before the semifinals here - titles in 2004 and 2005, a runner-up finish in 2007 (to Jelena Jankovic) and semifinals in 2003, 2006, 2009 and now this year.

Check out 20 of Maria's best off-court photos right here!

Next up for Sharapova is another qualifier, Alison Riske, who continued her shock run through the draw with a 67(5) 64 63 upset over No.3 seed Yanina Wickmayer. Riske had upset No.9 seed Aleksandra Wozniak earlier in the week and continued that trend against Wickmayer, losing a tie-break in the first set but sneaking one break of serve in each of the other sets to prevail.

World No.185 Riske, who turns 20 next month, is playing her second Sony Ericsson WTA Tour main draw, having fallen first round this year at Charleston.

"I like the grass," Riske said. "You have to believe you can win. Even when I lost the first set, I felt everything could still go my way. Wickmayer was the highest-ranked opponent I had ever faced so I'm excited to get through.

"Against Sharapova I'll just have to focus on myself. I'll give it my all."

In the other two quarterfinal matches, No.1 seed Li Na beat qualifier Kaia Kanepi, 64 62, and No.4 seed Aravane Rezai edged No.5 seed Sara Errani in a tight two-setter, 76(2) 75. While Sharapova and Riske will be playing for the first time in the semifinals, Li and Rezai have met once before, with Li winning right here last year. Check out Li and Rezai's head-to-head.

See pics from on and off the court in Birmingham in the gallery.

Earlier in the day, the last three third round matches were completed after having been suspended Thursday due to darkness, with Li edging No.13 seed Angelique Kerber, 46 63 75; Errani beating Marina Erakovic, 76(5) 64; and Kanepi dusting off Michelle Larcher de Brito, 62 62.

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