herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

novak edges epic battle

Sharapova win sets up showdown with Serena

Top seed and reigning champion Novak Djokovic pulled off a great escape at Wimbledon in beating South African Kevin Anderson yesterday day after five tense sets to reach his 25th successive grand slam quarter-final.

In a match spanning two days, with the top seed fighting back to two sets all in fading light on Monday before play was stopped and carried over, Djokovic walked away a mightily relieved man with a 6-7(6) 6-7(6) 6-1 6-4 7-5 win.

"I think he served exceptionally well. This was one of the most difficult matches I have played at Wimbledon and maybe in my career," the world number one said after a final set in which his frustration and pent-up emotion was audible.

Djokovic promised to apologise to a shaken ball girl for one outburst. Asked about the incident, he expressed surprise and said the anger was aimed at himself, although he appeared to be calling for a towel and gesticulating angrily at the ballgirl.

"I'm sorry. There was nothing towards her," the top seed said.

He now faces U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic of Croatia in the last eight.

Maria Sharapova made it a remarkable 20 victories from 23 grand slam quarter-finals but was pushed all the way by American Coco Vandeweghe before emerging a 6-3 6-7(3) 6-2 winner.

The Russian fourth seed, Wimbledon champion as a 17-year-old in 2004 but a finalist only once since, had not dropped a set in this year's tournament coming into the last-eight contest.

"I was pretty dominant in the first and early in the second set but things slipped away," said the five-times grand slam champion.

"She's playing with a lot of confidence but I really regrouped in the third.

OVERPOWERED

Sharapova will now meet Serena Williams, who overpowered Victoria Azarenka after recovering from a set down to win 3-6 6-2 6-3.

The American is two wins away from holding all four grand slam titles concurrently -- the so-called Serena Slam she also achieved in 2002-03.

"It was fun out there and I saw Victoria smiling as well, we both really enjoyed it," said five-times Wimbledon champion Williams.

Garbine Muguruza became the first Spanish woman in 18 years to reach the semi-finals with a 7-5 6-3 win over Timea Bacsinszky.

She will face Agnieszka Radwanska, who dispatched American hope Madison Keys 7-6(3) 3-6 6-3 to reach the semi-finals for the third time in four years.

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