LONDON (Reuters) - Scenting a fifth Wimbledon singles title, grasscourt predator Serena Williams mowed down defending champion Petra Kvitova to move ominously into the semi-finals for the eighth time on Tuesday as the championships again battled the elements.
The 30-year-old American, who still looks unstoppable when in full flow on the lawns, wheeled out the heavy artillery to crack down 13 aces in a 6-3 7-5 victory that significantly raised the bar in a disappointing women’s tournament.
The men’s tournament got back on track as the five fourth round matches were completed 24 hours later than scheduled despite the best efforts of the non-existent British summer.
For a change it was all rather tame for home favorite Andy Murray who dispensed with the theatrics to ease past Marin Cilic 7-5 6-2 6-3 to reach the last eight for a fifth straight year.
Williams was ruthless against fourth seed Kvitova, who boasted some lethal weaponry of her own.
Czech Kvitova fought fire with fire to stay in touch with the American powerhouse but was eventually de-throned in a high-quality clash which marked Williams’ first taste of life under the Centre Court roof.
“You can’t play a defending Wimbledon champion or grand slam champion and not elevate your game,” Williams told reporters.
“I had to weed out the riff raff and just get serious.”
Williams will face another one in the semis after Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka beat Austria’s Tamira Paszek.
Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska reached her first grand slam semi-final after surviving several rain delays and a mid-match court switch to beat Russia’s Maria Kirilenko 7-5 4-6 7-5.
“Today for me was like 40 hours,” said third seed Radwanska after sealing victory under cover on Centre Court, echoing the thoughts of many of those involved in the championships, having been switched from Court One at 4-4 in the third set after yet more rain in London.
Radwanska, who along with Azarenka can replace Maria Sharapova as world No.1 by the end of the week, will tackle eighth seed Angelique Kerber for a place in the final after she won an all-German clash against Sabine Lisicki 6-3 6-7 7-5 despite squandering two match points in the second set.
On the day the women’s last eight normally take centre stage, Murray returned at midday to finish off Croatian Cilic to fuel hopes of a first home men’s winner at the championships since Fred Perry in 1936.
The fourth seed was again held up by rain for a while but took advantage of a bright slot in the murky skies to dispatch Cilic with a minimum of fuss.
Murray will face Spain’s David Ferrer in the quarter-finals in a repeat of their Roland Garros clash after the seventh seed thrashed Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro 6-3 6-2 6-3.
“To me he’s not a claycourt specialist,” Murray, outplayed by Ferrer on the French Open dirt, told reporters when asked whether the odds were in his favor. “He won (a tournament) last week, so he’s won eight matches in a row on grass.”
Florian Mayer and Philipp Kohlschreiber both reached the quarter-finals, making it the first time Germany had four singles quarter-finalists at a grand slam in the professional era.
Mayer finished off Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-3 6-1 3-6 6-2 and will face defending champion Novak Djokovic on Wednesday, while Kohlschreiber ended the run of American qualifier Brian Baker to reach his first grand slam quarter-final in which he will play French showman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Tsonga was the last player to book a place in the last eight, reeling in American Mardy Fish to win 4-6 7-6 6-4 6-4 in a stop-start tussle.
With nine of the past 12 women’s singles titles going to either Serena Williams or sister Venus, the scratching of another name on the trophy, as Kvitova did last year, is regarded as a personal affront by the siblings.
While the regular WTA tournaments no longer fire Serena’s engines, she always comes alive at the business end of Wimbledon and after some patchy performances she is now favorite to reclaim family honor on Saturday.
One point said it all about her warrior instinct.
After saving a set point at 4-5 in the second set, she then drew level at 5-5 with a point of raw brutality.
With Kvitova stranded at the net, Serena had open water either side of the Czech but elected instead to belt the ball straight at her opponent. Amazingly Kvitova got it back but the American swatted away the loose ball.
Two games later it was all over - Serena letting out a roar that nearly took the roof off Centre Court.
Murray put his body and his fans through the mangle in his previous match against Marcos Baghdatis - a bruising, nerve-shredding encounter that ended at gone 11pm local time.
Against Cilic, both on Monday when he established a healthy lead, and on the resumption on Tuesday on Court One he was unflappable, booming down aces and striking the ball sweetly.
His only concerns were the menacing rain clouds that threatened to clutter his schedule but even they held off to allow the fourth seed to reach the quarter-finals at Wimbledon for the fifth year in a row.
Ferrer produced arguably the performance of the tournament to punish Del Potro - overcoming a huge height disadvantage with a jet-heeled display of relentless consistency that offered up only eight unforced errors.
The 30-year-old, who seems to be improving with age, has reached the quarter-finals here for the first time, becoming the sixth Spaniard to do so in the professional era.
Editing by Pritha Sarkar