London — Serena Williams survived a major scare before sealing her 11th Wimbledon semifinal appearance as the seven-time champion hit back to beat Italy’s Camila Giorgi 3-6 6-3 6-4 on Tuesday.
Williams was in danger of a stunning quarterfinal exit after world No52 Giorgi became the first player in the 2018 tournament to take a set off the former world No1.
But Williams bludgeoned her way out of trouble over the final two sets to stay on course for an eighth All England Club triumph. It was Williams’s 100th career main draw victory on grass.
Williams will play German 13th seed Julia Goerges on Thursday for a place in Saturday’s final, boasting a 3-0 career record. "I knew after the first set, ‘all right, let’s go three sets’. I’ll just keep fighting," she said.
"I’m okay, I feel good, I feel like I did better today, I had to. This is only my fourth tournament back so I don’t feel pressure, I don’t feel I have to win this. I still have a long way to go to be where I was."
Williams is the first woman to reach a Grand Slam semifinal without facing a top 40-ranked opponent since 2013 and just the fourth since 2005.
Her path to the title has been wide open from early in the tournament as top players Garbine Muguruza, Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and Sloane Stephens were all eliminated.
The carnage at the top leaves 11th seed Angelique Kerber, beaten by Williams in the 2016 Wimbledon final, as the highest ranked player left. Kerber takes on Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko in the other semifinal.
Having shaken off the rust following her lengthy lay-off after the birth of her daughter Olympia in September, Williams is on the verge of an 11th Wimbledon final appearance.
If Williams lifts the Venus Rosewater Dish this weekend, she will join a select group of women who have won Grand Slam titles after becoming mothers. She would also draw level with record holder Margaret Court on 24 Grand Slam crowns.
Williams won Wimbledon on her last two visits in 2015 and 2016 before missing the 2017 event due to her pregnancy.
Watched from the stands by her friend and mega-star rapper Drake, Williams struggled to hit the right notes in the first set.
There were no signs of stage-fright from Giorgi in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal as she took the first set. But, hitting her serve with more ferocity, Williams wrestled back control with a crucial break in the fourth game of the second set.
Shrieking and clenching her fists after every key point that went her way, Williams let out a guttural "C’mon" once she wrapped up the set. It was a verbal and physical assault Giorgi could not withstand.
Asked before the match what she made of Williams’s form, Giorgi had replied: "I don’t know, I don’t follow women’s tennis."
But this nerveless comeback was a sight familiar to all who have admired Williams’s warrior instincts throughout a Wimbledon career stretching back 20 years.
When Williams broke again for a 2-1 lead in the final set, the American whirled and pumped her arms.
Her dance of delight signalled the end of Giorgi’s threat as Williams raced to the finish line.