2004 champion Maria Sharapova advanced to the Wimbledon semifinals today. It was the first time since 2006 that she had reached the semifinals, and she did so easily, defeating 24th seed Dominika Cibulkova 6-1, 6-1. Sharapova, seeded 5th, is now the only player who has not dropped a set. She will play wild card Sabine Lisicki in the next round.
Also reaching the semifinals was 2010 semifinalist Petra Kvitova, who is seeded 8th. Her opponent, also a 2010 semifinalist, was 32nd seed Tsvetana Pironkova. Kvitova's performance was not an unusal one for her. She won the first set 6-3, and--with her big lefty serve--appeared to be in charge of the proceedings. But she went "off," as Kvitova is inclined to do, and Pironkova was glad to take advantage. She broke Kvitova, then Kvitova broke her back, but when the set went to a tiebreak, it was Pironkova who prevailed.
I had really looked forward to this match, and I enjoyed it. I thought Kvitova might finally drop a set, and she did. She lost her way briefly for a second time, in the third set, but then pulled herself together to win it 6-2. The Czech player's game has continued to get better; she has become more nimble, and seems more assured about her volleys. But her tendency to take a mental leave is still there, and--at the semifinal level--that could be a dangerous tendency. It should be noted, nevertheless, that the 8th seed hit 54 winners.
Finally, 4th seed Victoria Azarenka advanced to the semifinals. It was a long time coming. Azarenka has managed to crash out, pass out or bow out in some way or the other during every major of her career, always before she reached the semifinals. Her opponent today was Tamira Paszek, and Azarenka--moving with more speed agility than we are accustomed to seeing from her--dominated Paszek and took the match 6-3, 6-1.
She will play Kvitova in the semifinals, and their recent history is a rich one. Kvitova beat Azarenka 7-5, 6-0 in the third round of Wimbledon last year. More recently, she defeated her 7-6, 6-4 in the red clay final in Madrid. Azarenka won their two earlier matches.