LONDON, Great Britain - Former World No.1 Serena Williams scored her 97th victory at the All-England Club in style, taking down the always-dangerous Alison Riske in three close sets to return to the Wimbledon final four.
Serena had dropped just one set en route to the quarterfinals as she’s navigated the 'group of death’, a section of the draw littered with former champions and dangerous grass court players. The American outplayed seeded players Julia Goerges and Carla Suarez Navarro, with only Slovak youngster Kaja Juvan taking her to three sets.
With her level looking more and more dangerous as the fortnight has gone on, today Serena struck 48 winners and 18 aces to take down the ‘s-Hertogenbosch champion, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 and return to the Wimbledon semifinals.
“I just needed to just fight,” Serena told press after the match. “Alison, I mean, she played great throughout the whole tournament. She's beaten so many amazing players, players that have had great years.
“She was not giving it to me. I needed to step up and take it. That's what I had to do.”
Serena twice trailed by a break in the opening set, Riske playing like a veteran in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal and first career meeting against Serena. Riske kept the Serena serve under pressure, breaking first to grab a 2-1 lead - despite Serena hitting three aces in the same game. But Serena struck back a few games later, rushing the net and scooping back a netcord ball to level at 3-3.
The pair traded breaks once again, with Riske surging ahead and Serena hitting back to make it 4-4. But Serena stayed patient and waited for her chances, firing winners off of both wings and was rewarded with a final break at 6-4 to snatch away the opening set.
But Riske, who has spent almost four more hours on court than her opponent today after contesting four consecutive three-setters, proved why she’s so dangerous on grass by rallying back in the second set. She stayed toe-to-toe with the former champion, and didn’t face a break point in the entire set as she broke Serena at 5-4 to level the score at one set apiece.
But Riske was in trouble as Serena surged ahead in the opening set, turning around a 0-1 break deficit and reeling off three games in a row to lead 3-1. She fought back admirably, edging to a break back to level 3-3, but Serena wouldn’t be denied. Her big serve was booming and her returns had Riske scrambling, breaking once more at 5-3 and serving it out in style to return to the Wimbledon semifinals.
“This is the first time since Australia that I actually felt, like, good,” Serena admitted. “It's been a really, really long year for me already, and hard year, because I'm usually not typically injured.
“I don't know where I am [in terms of my level]. I do know I feel good. Now that I feel good, I can actually focus on training and technique and practice, something that I just literally haven't been able to do a lot of.”
Reaching this stage of the tournament has historically been a good omen for Serena: the seven-time champion has reached the semifinals here 11 times in her career, and she’s only once failed to advance to the final - in 2000, when she fell to older sister Venus Williams in the final four.
Standing between Serena and a return to the Wimbledon final will be the winner between the tricky Barbora Strycova and home hope Johanna Konta, the No.19 seed.