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Wimbledon 2019: Serena Williams Returns to the Semifinals

WIMBLEDON, England — Third sets have been good to Alison Riske in the best Wimbledon of her career. But she had never played one against Serena Williams.

Riske pushed her much more celebrated opponent hard and into the corners on Centre Court on Tuesday, but Williams came up with the big serves and shots on the run that she needed to win a hotly contested, deeply entertaining quarterfinal, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

Williams, at age 37, is now within striking distance again of the Grand Slam title that has eluded her since she returned to the circuit in March 2018 after giving birth to her daughter.

After losing in the final at Wimbledon last year to Angelique Kerber, she is back in the semifinals at the All England Club and will face the winner of Tuesday’s second quarterfinal on Centre Court between Johanna Konta of Britain and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic.

Williams has won seven singles titles at Wimbledon and is one of the greatest grass-court players in history. But Riske, a 29-year-old unseeded American playing in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, is quite comfortable on grass as well.

Her flat strokes and ability to take the ball very early off the bounce and push forward to the net helped her defeat four consecutive opponents in three sets at Wimbledon this year, including the No. 1 seed, Ashleigh Barty, in the fourth round on Monday.

But Riske could not quite continue her run against Williams despite converting all five of her break points in the match. Williams took control of the match at 3-3 in the final set, holding serve at love and then breaking Riske in a long, taut game in which Riske, playing boldly, saved three break points.

But Williams, the No. 11 seed, won an acrobatic rally to get another break point and converted when Riske hit a double fault. Williams then served out the victory, finishing with her 19th ace.

“I wouldn’t have won that match a couple of weeks ago,” Williams said, referring to her mediocre form at the French Open, where she was still hampered by knee pain. “Every match here has really helped me. I’m glad I was able to come through. She was honestly playing so great. She beat so many great players and was so close to the win today.”

Simona Halep, the highest remaining women’s seed at No. 7, reached the Wimbledon semifinals for the first time since 2014 by defeating Zhang Shuai, 7-6 (4), 6-1.

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