Four-time singles champion Serena Williams fired a record 24 aces past Victoria Azarenka to move to her first Wimbledon final in two years.
“I’m so excited,” Williams said after advancing to her seventh final at the All England Club. “I’ve been working so hard, I really wanted it. Victoria is a great player. She was playing really well.”
The sixth-seeded American beat the reigning Australian Open champion from Belarus, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) on Centre Court. Williams has now beaten Azarenka in eight of their nine meetings.
Williams plays third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska in the finals in two days. Radwanska, the first Polish woman to reach the Wimbledon championship match in 75 years, beat Germany’s No. 8 seed Angelique Kerber, 6-3, 6-4 in the other semifinal today.
Williams had served 61 aces on her way to the last four, compared to 37 for the other three semifinalists combined.
The serve that’s helped her win 13 Grand Slam singles titles worked well again today as Williams put Azarenka under pressure from the start with slow, yet well-placed slice serves, top spin kick serves, second-serve aces and aces of up to 119 miles-per-hour (191 kilometers-per-hour).
In the first set, Williams broke for a 5-3 lead with a running backhand pass off a drop shot. Azarenka then lost her first set of the championships with a forehand return into the net.
Williams, who struck eight aces in the first set compared to none for Azarenka, was leading 3-1 in the second set when the No. 2 seed broke back on a backhand error. In the tiebreak, Williams squandered her first match point with a drop shot that sat up too high. She then clenched her fists and turned to her box after she won the match with her 24th ace.
“I got a little tight in the second set,” said Williams, who improved her previous Wimbledon women’s ace record set in the third round by one. “I couldn’t relax, was looking too far into the future. I can’t do that. I was just happy to get through that second set tiebreak.”
Williams, 30, won the last of her major singles titles at Wimbledon in 2010, before getting sidelined for a year with a foot injury and surgery for blood clots. She’d entered the grass-court Grand Slam after losing at the French Open in the opening round, the first time in her career she failed to clear the first hurdle of a major. Her sister and five-time champion Venus lost in the opening round of Wimbledon last week, her earliest exit since 1997.
The last time a woman over the age of 30 won a Grand Slam title was at Wimbledon in 1990, when Martina Navratilova took her ninth championship.
Azarenka is having a breakthrough season, winning six titles including her first major at the Australian Open in January. She was the only player to reach the semifinals without dropping a set. Having held the No. 1 ranking for 19 weeks after she won in Melbourne, Azarenka lost the top spot to Maria Sharapova when the Russian won her first French Open title last month. Azarenka would have reclaimed the No. 1 spot if she had won today.
Radwanska, who recovered from a break down in the first set, jumped up and down when she clinched victory as her German opponent hit a shot wide on Centre Court.
“This has been a dream since I was a kid,” Radwanska, 23, said afterwards. “We both were a bit nervous in the beginning. After a couple of games, I relaxed a little bit.”
The Williams sisters both lost in the fourth round of Wimbledon last year, which meant that for the first time since 2006 at least one of them wasn’t playing in the last eight. They had dominated tennis’s All England Club for a decade, taking nine singles titles between 2000 and 2010, and also won four doubles championships together on the London grass courts.
“Radwanska, she’s doing unbelievable,” Williams said about her next opponent, who made six errors in the first set and only one in the second. “She’s going to get every ball back.”