World number one Serena Williams brushed aside fourth seed Maria Sharapova to set up a Wimbledon final against Spain’s Garbine Muguruza.
The American, 33, extended her winning run against Sharapova to 17 matches over 11 years with a 6-2 6-4 victory.
Williams could win a sixth Wimbledon and 21st major title on Saturday, when she can also complete a ‘Serena Slam’ by holding all four Grand Slam titles.
Muguruza, 21, beat Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2 3-6 6-3 in the first semi-final.
The Venezuela-born 20th seed led by a set and a break only for 13th seed Radwanska to respond with six straight games and force a decider.
“I don’t have words to explain it,” Muguruza told BBC Sport.
“I worked all my life to achieve this moment. I think I was playing really well so I had to stay calm and keep a poker face.”
Williams was thrilled to reach her 25th Grand Slam final, saying: “I’m so excited. I got a bit nervous because it was a semi-final and it’s a long time since I’ve been this far.”
Dominant Williams makes it 17 in a row
Sharapova had not beaten Williams since 2004, the year of her Wimbledon triumph over the American, and she was unable to prevent a 17th straight defeat.
The Russian knew she had to defend her vulnerable serve better but successive double faults handed over the opening game, to groans around Centre Court.
|Lindsay Davenport, 1999 Wimbledon champion|
|“It’s 17 times in a row now and I think Sharapova is a realist and says: ‘This is just a bad match-up for me.’ She just doesn’t possess what she needs to challenge Serena. She was constantly fighting to hold her own serve and couldn’t make any inroads on the return game. It all revolves around the serve for Serena and when that’s on, I’m not sure anyone can challenge her. It’s perfect.”|
Williams was not in the mood to offer her long-time rival any gifts and almost broke again in game three, Sharapova saving herself with an ace out wide.
A forehand into the corner earned the double break two games later and the set was wrapped up after 33 minutes, with Sharapova unable to profit from the American making just 52% of first serves.
There were signs of the world number four at least gaining a foothold in the early stages of the second set, but Williams upped the pace in game five and Sharapova succumbed on break point with her fifth double fault.
Sharapova was struggling desperately to win points on her second serve and Williams let her off the hook with three missed returns on break points at 3-3, before the Russian saved two match points in game nine.
Williams still had her serve to come, however, and fired down four aces – taking her total to 13 – to complete the entire 79-minute contest without facing a break point.
Sharapova falls short of expectations
After another defeat by Williams, Sharapova found it difficult to take much solace from the fact that she had at least reached a 20th Grand Slam semi-final.
“But I expect myself to be a champion of these events, and it’s disappointing to come out as a loser because I know my level can be there, and my level can be at the point of holding these championship trophies.
“I know that that’s what keeps me going forward.”
Muguruza holds her nerve in decider
Muguruza completely dominated for a set and a half, winning more than half of the points on Radwanska’s serve and hitting three times as many winners as she built a 6-2 3-1 lead.
It took 55 minutes for Radwanska to earn a break point but, when Muguruza found the net, it heralded a dramatic shift in momentum.
|Tracy Austin, two-time US Open champion|
|“I was almost more impressed that Muguruza lost the lead and then recovered, that’s a really good sign of maturity. At 21, I think she’s such a major star to come. She’s got a beautiful personality and I’ve loved her reactions when she’s won. I think she’s going to get a huge fanbase behind her. Over the next 48 hours it’s so important for her to relish this situation and try to get ready for the final.”|
The Pole finally began to move her 6ft opponent around, testing her more vulnerable forehand and drawing her into the net with sliced backhands.
It brought Radwanska a run of six straight games as she levelled at one set all and broke at the start of the decider.
Muguruza, who beat Serena Williams at the French Open last year, stemmed the tide with a couple of winners to break back for 1-1 and a gripping contest unfolded.
Radwanska had two break points and was pushing for a third at deuce when, seemingly urged on by those in her player box, the Pole challenged a Muguruza shot that Hawk-Eye showed to have clipped the line.
A relieved Muguruza converted her first match point with a big serve and forehand drive-volley to become Spain’s first female finalist since Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in 1996.
“I knew it was going to be tough,” said Muguruza. “I was nervous in second set. She has a lot of experience and I had to fight.”
Radwanska rues Hawk-Eye call
Radwanska admitted her decision to challenge at deuce in what proved to be the final game let an increasingly nervous Muguruza off the hook.
“It was a 50/50 call on that ball. I decide to challenge. Wasn’t really a good decision,” said the Pole.
Asked whether she had done so after shouts from her team at courtside, Radwanska added: “I think I did it because I’m the one to decide if I challenge or not. Nobody can do that for me.”