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Azarenka makes mother's day with surge into semi

Victoria Azarenka gave her mum a birthday to remember as she hammered Tamira Paszek to reach her maiden grand slam semi-final at Wimbledon yesterday.

The 21-year-old from Belarus needed just an hour and 24 minutes to complete a 6-3 6-1 victory which spanned across Court One and Centre owing to the rain that fell late in the evening.

The lengthy delay as the Centre Court roof was closed allowing the match to be played to a finish did not distract Azarenka either, with the highest-ranked player left in the draw delivering a brutal display.

And, having fallen at the quarter-final hurdle four times before, she was happy to make it fifth time lucky and give her mother something to celebrate.

"It's was mum's birthday so I really wanted to give her a good gift, and I was trying to play beautifully," she said.

"I stayed really focused and composed through the whole match."

Her reward is a meeting with Czech Petra Kvitova, who needed all three sets available to beat Tsvetana Pironkova -- Venus Williams' fourth-round conqueror -- 6-3 6-7 (5/7) 6-2.

Kvitova is in the SW19 last-four for the second year running and she admitted afterwards that she let the thought of another semi-final appearance put her off her game in the second set.

"I started very well. At the beginning I was better and I played so well like in previous matches," she said.


"But then I got a little nervous and in my mind there was something, I don't know what it was. I was mentally down.

"I became nervous because I knew that I could be in the semi-finals again and that was in my head. It wasn't good for me and I made some easy mistakes."

It is Maria Sharapova who is the tournament favourite, though, and she showed why as she demolished Dominicka Cibulkova in 59 minutes under the Centre Court roof.

The 2004 winner broke serve six times in a row to take a resounding 6-1 6-1 victory, and she hopes her experience of the back-end of tournaments will stand her in good stead when she meets Sabine Lisicki tomorrow.

"It's great that I have experience of being at this stage, but I haven't been here for a while so it's a nice and refreshing feeling to have," she said.

"I still feel like the tournament is not over. I still have a few more girls left.

"I've worked really hard to get to this stage, but I'm not saying this is where I want to end.

"I want to keep going."

For her part, Lisicki booked her spot with a 6-4 6-7 (4/7) 6-1 triumph over Marion Bartoli, striking a blow for the new generation of German players in the process.

Andrea Petkovic and Julia Goerges have been leading the charge but Lisicki has trumped them both with her superb run at the All England Club, becoming the first German woman since seven-time champion Steffi Graf 12 years ago to reach the last four.

"It just feels amazing to be in the semi-finals," said Lisicki.

"I think it's also great for German tennis to have great girls.

"It's not only me."