Saturday 10 December 2016

Maria Sharapova digs deep to earn Wimbledon semi-final spot

Nick Purewal

Published 07/07/2015 | 17:28

Maria Sharapova celebrates beating Coco Vandeweghe
Maria Sharapova celebrates beating Coco Vandeweghe

Thoroughbred Russian grit outclassed all-American pedigree as Maria Sharapova fended off Coco Vandeweghe to set up a probable Wimbledon semi-final with Serena Williams.

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Vandeweghe has finally come of grand slam age in SW19 but was no match in the deciding set for five-time major champion Sharapova, who grunted, screamed and cajoled her way to 6-3 6-7 (3/7) 6-2 victory.

New York native Vandeweghe may now be ready to uphold the legacy of her Miss America and NBA star grandparents - but 2004 Wimbledon champion Sharapova is still busy extending a sporting dynasty of her own.

Sharapova's wince-inducing screams grew louder amid stress points, as is her custom - any decibel rises did little to deter Vandeweghe, who can at least be proud of the staying power that forced a third set.

Maria Sharapova of Russia reacts to breaking serve during her match against Coco Vandeweghe
Maria Sharapova of Russia reacts to breaking serve during her match against Coco Vandeweghe

"It's been a while since I've been at that stage so I'm really happy with every match," said Sharapova, preparing for her 20th grand slam semi-final.

"You have to give everything you have on a special occasion; you're playing to be one of the last four in one of the world's biggest tournaments."

Sharapova served for the match in the second set, only for Vandeweghe to force and then win a tie-break and take the clash the distance.

"I was pretty dominant in the first and beginning of the second set and things slipped away a little for me in the tie-break," said Sharapova.

"I really regrouped and obviously she was playing with a lot of confidence and had nothing to lose.

"Obviously when you're in a position to win it, sometimes it doesn't quite go your way and then you go back to the thing that helped you win that first set."

Sharapova will now most likely face top seed Williams in her fifth Wimbledon semi-final - where cold stares and icy glances would be the order of the day.

World number one Williams already boasts this year's Australian and French Open titles and is gunning for a calendar grand slam that would all-but complete her set of career landmarks.

Coco Vandeweghe of the U.S.A. hits a shot during her match against Maria Sharapova
Coco Vandeweghe of the U.S.A. hits a shot during her match against Maria Sharapova

The 33-year-old, younger Williams sister must first move past a resurgent Victoria Azarenka to confirm that Sharapova battle.

Few victories on the world stage would perhaps give Sharapova more pleasure than denying great rival Williams that elusive calendar slam.

Two years ago Williams appeared to brand Grigor Dimitrov "the guy with the black heart". She had been in a relationship with the Bulgarian, who is now dating Sharapova.

Sharapova responded in kind, and the pair's relationship since could politely be described as terse.

This run represents Sharapova's best Wimbledon performance since losing the 2011 final to Petra Kvitova, as the Russian seeks further grand slam glory.

Whether the 28-year-old could cope with Serena Williams's power and dominance some 11 years after landing the Wimbledon title remains to be seen.

The Russian wrestled with her faltering serve throughout a hard-fought victory over Vandeweghe - Williams would exploit similar technical shortcomings without mercy.

Defeat for Vandeweghe ends her best-ever grand slam showing - but should also put a stop to a lengthy bout of soul-searching for her true persona in professional tennis.

The 23-year-old claims her once-household American name does not weigh heavily, but the exploits of her relatives doubtless adds pressure.

The granddaughter of all-star couple 1952 Miss America Colleen Kay Hutchins and former New York Knick Ernie Vandeweghe is also the daughter of former Olympic swimmer Tauna Vandeweghe.

Vandeweghe took her mother's maiden name after her parents' divorce left her estranged from her father.

In February last year she vowed to cut out the junk food and turn her preparation on its head: 17 months on she can leave London with a serious grand slam career in the making.

Press Association

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