Sharapova, Lisicki set up big-hitting Wimbledon semi-final

Heavy-hitters Maria Sharapova and Sabine Lisicki are due to set-up a mouthwatering semi-final on Thursday, with the Russian golden girl hotly tipped as the bookies favourite to win her second Wimbledon title.Tomorrow?s other semi-final will be between Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka, who will meet for the second straight year at the tournament.Fifth seed Sharapova, the 2004 champion, and now the overwhelming favourite following the fourth round defeats of Serena and Venus Williams, brushed aside Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova 6-1, 6-1.Lisicki, the first German woman to make the semi-finals since Steffi Graf in 1999, and only the second wildcard to reach the last four, saw off French ninth seed Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 6-1.Cibulkova, who had stunned world number one and top seed Caroline Wozniacki in the last 16, never looked like repeating that upset against Sharapova.“It’s an honour to be in the semi-final. It’s a few years since I’ve got past the fourth round so it’s a great chance to take it a step further,” said Sharapova, who believes she has got stronger as the tournament has progressed.”I certainly feel like I’ve improved, especially from my second round. I think that’s really important if you want to get to the later stages,” she said.”You have to step it up because the matches will only get tougher and you’re going to be playing better players.”Lisicki, whose career went into a tailspin when an ankle injury left her barely able to walk last year, is determined to capitalise on her shock run, just in case it’s her last opportunity.The 21-year-old recovered from wasting three match points in the second set to defeat Bartoli, the 2007 runner-up, who had defeated four-time winner Serena Williams in the fourth round.

Lisicki had already been a quarter-finalist in 2009 before disaster struck in 2010 when an ankle injury picked up in Miami sidelined her for five months and sent her ranking plummeting to 218.”I’m more experienced and calmer. Two years ago it was different. I was more nervous. I couldn’t sleep so good,” said the German.”But now it’s different. After the injury, I know how fast it can be gone. I just try to enjoy every minute that I’m on the court.”Lisicki fired 52 winners past Bartoli and hit the 121mph serving mark just as she had done when she knocked out China’s French Open winner Li Na in the second round.Thursday’s other semi-final will see Czech eighth seed Petra Kvitova face fourth seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus who she beat in the third round here last year.

Kvitova secured a second successive semi-final spot with a 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2 win over Bulgarian 32nd seed Tsvetana Pironkova, who put out Venus Williams on Monday.Kvitova is bidding to become the first left-hander to win the women’s title since Martina Navratilova in 1990 and first Czech winner since Jana Novotna in 1998.Azarenka reached her first Grand Slam semi-final after coming up short in four previous quarter-finals by defeating Austria’s Tamira Paszek 6-3, 6-1 in a match played on two different courts.Azarenka dedicated the win to her mother who was celebrating her birthday on Tuesday.”I wanted to give her a good gift, I wanted to play beautifully,” said Azarenka.Her match had started on Court One but after Paszek had won the first game, the contest was suspended because of the slippery conditions caused by the heavy rain which had disrupted the day’s schedule.One hour later, the two players resumed the contest but this time under the £80 million roof of Centre Court. – Yahoonews