Serena aces her way into final
Four-time champion Serena Williams buried Victoria Azarenka under a record firestorm of 24 aces to reach her seventh Wimbledon final on Thursday.
The 30-year-old American claimed a 6-3, 7-6 (8/6) semifinal win and will on Saturday tackle third seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, the first Pole in a Grand Slam final in 73 years, aiming to claim her 14th major.
As well as a record 24 aces, beating her own best of 23 set against Zheng Jie in the third round, Williams also fired a whopping 45 winners.
She has now hit a total of 85 aces in the tournament.
Williams will start as the hot favourite on Saturday having beaten world No 3 Radwanska in their two meetings without dropping a set, including the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2008 where the American lost just four games.
"I've been working so hard, I really wanted it," said Williams, the first 30-year-old to reach the All England Club final since Steffi Graf in 1999.
"She was playing well and I got a little tight in the second set. I was looking too far in the future. I was so close, but I can't do that. I was happy to get through that second set tie-break."
Williams, who won the first of her four Wimbledons 10 years ago, insisted that the destination of the 2012 crown is far from a foregone conclusion even though she is widely expected to overwhelm the slender Radwanska.
The Pole made the final with a 6-3, 6-4 win over German eighth seed Angelique Kerber.
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"She's doing unbelievable. She's playing so great. Wow, she's going to get every ball back," said the American, whose serving prowess would not look out of place in the men's game.
Only Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber, who made the quarterfinals, has hit more aces with 98.
Williams's 85 is one more than American men's 10th seed Mardy Fish who finished his campaign on 84.
Serena played two doubles matches on Wednesday with sister Venus, but showed no signs of fatigue against Azarenka, taking the first set courtesy of eight aces and 20 winners, while allowing her opponent just four points on serve.
That was the first set dropped by the 22-year-old Belarusian at the tournament.
Buoyed by a 7-1 winning record against the Australian Open champion, who could have retaken the world No 1 spot had she won, Williams broke for a 2-1 lead in the second set, secured with a sweeping forehand service return.
Azarenka hit back to level at 3-3 and then saved a match point in the tiebreak.
But the record 24th ace, blitzed right down the middle, gave Williams a deserved win.
RADWANSKA MAKES HISTORY FOR POLAND
Radwanska, meanwhile, became the first Polish Grand Slam finalist for 73 years as the world No 3 cruised to a 6-3, 6-4 win over Germany's Angelique Kerber.
Radwanska's first appearance in a Grand Slam final emulates the achievement of compatriot Jadwiga Jedrzejowska, who reached the French Championships final in 1939.
Radwanska deserved her moment of glory on Centre Court after a remarkably composed 70-minute display in her first major semifinal and she could yet leave London as both Wimbledon champion and the new world No 1.
Deploying a consistent counter-punching game, Radwanska made just six unforced errors compared to 14 from the more aggressive but unfocused Kerber, who had been attempting to become the first German woman to reach a Grand Slam final since Steffi Graf at Wimbledon in 1999.
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"I'm so happy, it's amazing. I played very good today," Radwanska said.
"It's always tough against Angie. We are very good friends but of course on court we were both fighting for the final.
"I think we were both a bit nervous in the beginning, your hand is shaking a bit, but after a couple of games I relaxed.
"This is what I dreamed of since I was a kid. Everyone wants to reach a Grand Slam final. It is the best two weeks of my career."
Radwanska's victory over Maria Kirilenko in the quarterfinals had ended four years of frustration after she suffered last eight losses at Wimbledon in 2008 and 2009 and three defeats at the same stage of the Australian Open.
With that burden erased from her mind, Radwanska was able to play with freedom against eighth seed Kerber – once she recovered from an early break in the third game.
Radwanska immediately retrieved that break and then broke for a 5-3 lead thanks to a pair of crucial Kerber miscues on the backhand side.
The Pole closed out the set with a blistering ace that left Kerber rooted to the spot.
Kerber started the second set with a aggressive approach, but if that was an attempt to knock Radwanska out of her stride it didn't work.
Instead, her go-for-broke policy backfired as a series of errors handed Radwanska a break in the fifth game of the second set.
Kerber's last chance came when she earned a break point at 2-3, but she couldn't convert as Radwanska cleverly moved her out of position to save the break before serving out the biggest win of her life.