x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Lisicki sets up lip-smacking Wimbledon semi-final with Sharapova

Only the second wild card to do so, the German makes the last four stage beating ninth seed Bartoli to set up clash with the only former champion left.

Sharapova is reaching the business end of a successful comeback.
Sharapova is reaching the business end of a successful comeback.

Maria Sharapova, the fifth seed and tournament favourite, powered into the Wimbledon semi-finals with an emphatic 6-1, 6-1 win over an outgunned Dominika Cibulkova.

Centre Court roof has changed Wimbledon

The tall Russian, the last former champion left in the women's draw having triumphed in 2004, broke three times in the first set under the Centre Court roof as she dominated the small Slovak from the baseline.

Three further breaks in the second set meant victory, in just over an hour, was a mere formality on the grass.

Having not dropped a set all tournament, Sharapova now looks hot favourite to seal her fourth grand slam title and meets German wildcard Sabine Lisicki in Thursday's last four.

Lisicki became the first German woman to reach a Wimbledon semi-final since Steffi Graf in 1999 when she defeated French ninth seed Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 6-1.

As thunder rumbled over the All England Club and torrential rain lashed the Centre Court roof, the 21 year old also became just the second wild card to make the last four.

She will now tackle either 2004 champion Maria Sharapova or Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova for a place in Saturday's final.

But Lisicki, whose career suffered when a five-month ankle injury absence in 2010 sent her ranking plummeting to 218 in March, did it the hard way, squandering three match points in the 10th game of the second set.

"I was very disapopinted with myself after serving at 5-4 for the match. But I really decided to just go for it," said Lisicki.

"I felt I was the better player today and I just had to fight and focus in the third set to win it.

"It's so unbelievable. I can't explain how I feel at the moment. It was such a tough road back. It's just so wonderful to be standing on the Centre Court at Wimbledon which I love so much."

Bartoli had knocked out defending champion Serena Williams in the fourth round but she was immediately under pressure against Lisicki who broke the Frenchwoman in the first game.

Lisicki handed the break back before Bartoli was broken again to give the German a 2-1 lead.

Bartoli, the 2007 runner-up, saved two set points in the ninth game but succumbed to Lisicki in the next as the 21-year-old German clinched the opener with a smart, wrong-footing backhand.

The 26-year-old Frenchwoman broke to lead 3-1 in the second set but she was unable to maintain the advantage as Lisicki employed a sixth successful drop shot to break back at 2-3.

Lisicki, who blasted China's French Open champion Li Na off court in the second round, unleashed the fastest serve of the match at 121mph to level at 3-3.

She carved out a break to lead 5-4 but was unable to convert any of her three match points in the 10th game, leaving her opponent to snatch the break back on a Lisicki double fault.

Bartoli made the most of her reprieve, taking the tie-break to level the match.

Lisicki held her nerve this time and was 4-1 ahead after a break in the second game handed to her by Bartoli's fifth double fault.

Bartoli had spent three more hours on court than Lisicki in getting to this stage and she clearly wilted as the final set progressed.

Lisicki broke again to lead 5-1 and took the match when Bartoli netted a forehand return.