Serena Williams has survived a scare to book a Wimbledon semi-final showdown with old rival Maria Sharapova as the world No.1 battled back to defeat Victoria Azarenka 3-6 6-2 6-3.
Williams was in danger of a shock quarter-final exit after a slow start on Centre Court on Tuesday, but the five-time Wimbledon champion eventually battered 23rd seed Azarenka into submission in two hours and three minutes with a barrage of 43 winners and 14 aces.
The 33-year-old American, aiming to win her fourth successive grand slam title and 21st in total, will face world No.4 Sharapova on Thursday holding a 17-2 lead in their head to head record.
Sharapova overcame a testing battle to defeat first-time quarter-finalist Coco Vandeweghe.
The 2004 winner, seeded fourth, took two and three-quarter hours to send the American out 6-3 6-7 (3-7) 6-2 and will play a Wimbledon semi-final for the first time since 2011.
The five-time grand slam winner failed to serve out the match after leading a set and 5-3, but finally prevailed well over an hour later in the third set, claiming a victory despite 10 double-faults but breaking her opponent six times.
“Things slipped away in the second set,” Sharapova said after reaching her 20th grand slam semi.
“I had to regroup. She was playing with a lot of confidence and had nothing to lose.
“I knew it would be a tough match. I’m happy with every match that I’ve won here, I’m through to the final four so that gives me a lot of confidence.”
Spain’s Garbine Muguruza earned a career-first semi-final at a major after beating Swiss Timea Bacsinszky, the 15th seed, 7-5 6-3.