Serena Williams comes back to reach Wimbledon semifinals

LONDON — Serena Williams came up with a comeback to reach the semifinals at Wimbledon, then walked off Centre Court with her right index finger aloft.

Yes, no matter what the rankings or seedings say, she still looks as if she’s capable of playing like someone who’s No. 1.

Williams moved closer to her eighth title at the All England Club and 24th Grand Slam trophy overall — but first since missing more than a year while having a baby — by beating 52nd-ranked Camila Giorgi of Italy 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the quarterfinals Tuesday.

“This is only my fourth tournament back, so I don’t feel pressure. I don’t feel I have to win this; I don’t feel I have to lose this,” Williams said. “I’m just here just to be here and to prove that I’m back. And I feel like I’m back. I still have a long way to go to be where I was.”

Williams was seeded 25th by the All England Club, a nod to all of her past success at the grass-court major, including titles the last two times she entered it, in 2015 and 2016. She missed Wimbledon a year ago because she was pregnant, and she went about 16 months between Grand Slam tournaments, so her ranking is just outside the top 180.

That is going to change now.

Next up for the 36-year-old American is a match against No. 13 seed Julia Goerges of Germany, a 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 winner against No. 20 Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands.

This is all brand new for Goerges, who had never even been to a Grand Slam quarterfinal before this week. Plus, at Wimbledon in particular, she lost in the first round each of the past five years.

Williams is 3-0 against Goerges, winning in straight sets each time.

“Every match starts from zero,” Goerges said. “Everybody has the same chances to win that match, and I’m looking forward to it.”

After their most recent meeting, in the French Open’s third round last month, Williams pulled out of that tournament, citing a chest muscle injury that made it too painful to serve.

After going a couple of weeks without hitting a serve, Williams has regained her ability with that stroke nicely at Wimbledon.

She hit one at 122 mph against Giorgi, delivered six of her seven aces in the final set, and won 44 of the last 54 points she served.

It was the first time she’d needed to erase a real deficit this fortnight: Williams hadn’t dropped a set until facing Giorgi, who was in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

“After the first set, I was like, ‘All right, let’s go three sets.’ And that’s kind of what I thought. … ‘I’ll just keep fighting,’” Williams said.

The other semifinal Thursday will be No. 11 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany vs. No. 12 Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.

Kerber is a former No. 1 who owns two Grand Slam titles and was the runner-up to Williams at the All England Club two years ago. Ostapenko won last year’s French Open.

Kerber needed seven match points to close out No. 14 Daria Kasatkina of Russia 6-3, 7-5 at Centre Court, while Ostapenko defeated 2014 Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 7-5, 6-4 on a windy No. 1 Court.

Kerber took advantage of Kasatkina’s 31 unforced errors, including seven double-faults, but took a while to end things. Kerber served for the victory at 5-4 in the second set, but got broken. When she served for it a second time, she needed to navigate a 16-point game that included five deuces and all of those match points, until forcing a forehand error on the last.

Ostapenko played her usual aggressive style, compiling a 33-6 edge in winners.

In the last men’s quarterfinal, which was suspended because of darkness after the third set Monday night, 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro defeated Gilles Simon of France 7-6 (1), 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (5).

Del Potro held four match points while serving for the victory at 5-4 in the fourth set, but had to wait until the last tiebreaker to advance in 4 hours, 24 minutes, making it the longest men’s singles match of the tournament.

On Wednesday, del Potro faces Rafael Nadal.

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