The heavy hitting shook the ground and the volume would have raised the Centre Court roof, had it been closed, as Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka traded blows like a couple of prizefighters at Wimbledon on Tuesday.
A women’s tournament that has seen title contenders fall feebly on the All England Club lawns, finally witnessed two grand slam champions going toe-to-toe in a thunderous encounter befitting the final, rather than the second Tuesday.
Williams eventually won 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 with her best tennis at this year’s tournament so far to stay in line for a sixth Wimbledon title which would also complete the self-styled “Serena Slam”, that is holding all four majors concurrently.
“I feel really vulnerable. I feel really vulnerable in a third set,” Williams, who looked anything but, told reporters. “At that point I kind of relax and whatever happens, happens.”
Blocking her path to a first Wimbledon final since 2012 is Maria Sharapova after the Russian fought off feisty American CoCo Vandeweghe – the only unseeded player in a quarter-final lineup few would have predicted at the start.
Sharapova won 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-2 to set up another crack at Williams who she has lost to 16 times in a row since 2004 – the year she beat the American to win her only Wimbledon title.
“I haven’t played Serena here in 11 years,” fourth seed Sharapova, who famously beat Williams to the title in 2004 as a 17-year-old, told reporters.
“That will be an incredible moment for me to step out on Centre Court against her again.”