Between them, they share 11 Wimbledon titles and have played in five finals against each other at the All England Club. Serena and Venus Williams both won their quarterfinals to keep alive the possibility of an all-Williams final.
First, Venus ousted 96th-ranked Yaroslava Shvedova 7-6 6-2 to make her first slam semi-final since the 2010 US Open. At 36, Venus is the oldest major semi-finalist since a 37-year-old Martina Navratilova in 1994. The first set was arduous and without rhythm, both players mixing in winners with unforced errors to cancel each other out. Shvedova, from Kazakhstan, let slip a 5-2 lead in the tiebreak with a string of unforced errors which continued right through the second set.
Venus has had some of the best years of her tennis robbed by Sjogren’s Syndrome, which she’s suffered since 2011. The disorder is an autoimmune disease and, although there is no cure, she has worked around it by going on a vegan diet and staying away from sugar. She has never used it as an excuse for poor results.
Venus will play Australian Open champ Angelique Kerber for a place in the final, with the German leading 3-2 in past encounters. Kerber got through the match of the day, 7-5 7-6 in a really high-quality contest over Simona Halep. Both players were evenly matched on paper, both great returners, great retrievers – but not great servers. As expected, there were lots of breaks of serves, especially in the first set, and plenty of thrilling rallies that make the crowd ooh and aah.
Later, world No.1 Serena Williams beat former junior No.1 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4 6-4. Early on, the Russian underdog held her own. She had every reason to be nervous, but she looked anything but, holding serve with ease and striking the ball with confidence. But at 4-4, out of nowhere, she served a double fault and was broken to love. Serena duly served out the set.
It was deja vu in the second. Again, Pavlyuchenkova raced through her service games until 4-4 and, again, inexplicably dropped serve. Serena served 11 aces, won 90% of points on her first serve and never faced a break point in an emphatic display.
Serena will start a huge favourite in her next match where she plays first time major semi-finalist Elena Vesnina. The Russian has been at the deep end of grand slams in doubles before, but is in uncharted territory in singles after thrashing Dominika Cibulkova 6-2 6-2. Both Vesnina and Cibulkova won draining matches the day before, both 9-7 in the third. But it was the Russian who had the fresher legs.
Cibulkova can’t be sad for too long, though, because she has her wedding on Saturday. “What I do, I do 100%. I will get married 100%, not thinking about tennis,” she said.