Over the last two weeks, top seeds have been turfed out of Wimbledon at a rate of knots in both the men’s and women’s tournament.
Serena Williams, however, refused to join the list of illustrious departures and booked a 12th semifinal at the All England Club with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win over fellow American Alison Riske on Tuesday.
The win set up a semifinal against Barbora Strycova, who beat Johanna Konta in straight sets and extinguished home fans’ hopes of seeing a British woman winning Wimbledon for the first time in 42 years.
A seven-time Wimbledon champion, Williams has not won a Grand Slam title since January 2017 when she triumphed at the Australian Open. Having struggled with injuries for most of this year, the 37-year-old is coming into form just at the right time.
“It was really satisfying,” Williams was quoted as saying by the BBC after she beat Riske, who had knocked out world number one Ashleigh Barty in the previous round.
“I wouldn’t have won that match a couple of weeks ago. I’m glad I was able to come through. She was honestly playing amazing, she beat so many great players. I was really pumped, it was for a place in the semis at Wimbledon and that doesn’t happen every day. It’s a long, arduous road.”
Strycova, meanwhile, was a surprise winner in her quarterfinal against Konta. The 33-year-old slumped to a 4-1 deficit in the first set, but rallied back to take the set and then cruised to a 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 win.
The match against Williams is the Czech’s first ever Grand Slam singles semifinal and comes just days after she suggested this could be her final appearance at Wimbledon.
“I am 33 and I try to enjoy every moment,” she told reporters. “Every match I win is a bonus.”
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Thursday.
Semifinals start time
The women’s semifinals begin at 1 p.m. local time (8 a.m. ET) when former world number one Simona Halep takes on Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina on Centre Court. As the seventh and eighths seed respectively, the two are highest ranked players left in the women’s tournament.
Williams and Strycova will be on Centre Court once the first semifinal is complete.
The tournament is broadcast exclusively across ESPN, with coverage running from 8 a.m. ET until 1 p.m. on Thursday.
Fans can watch the action online via the WatchESPN app and on ESPN.com.
Semifinals full schedule
The semifinal between number seven seed Simona Halep and number eight seed Elina Svitolina is expected to be more even than the one between Williams and Strycova.
The Romanian, a former world number one, beat Coco Gauff in the fourth round before overcoming China’s Zhang Shuai in straight sets in the quarterfinals to reach her second semifinal at Wimbledon in five years.
Like Strycova did against Konta, Halep too had to rally from 4-1 in the opening set, before winning 7-6 (7-4), 6-1.
“I fought hard in the first set, even though I was down 4-1,” Halep was quoted as saying by the BBC. “I knew she was going to hit with a lot of power, but I knew today I had to be as strong as possible.”
Svitolina, meanwhile, reached her first ever Grand Slam semifinal after beating Czech Karolina Muchova.
Down 5-2 in the opening set, the Ukrainian forced her way back into the game and eventually secured a 7-5, 6-4 win in just over 90 minutes.
“It feels amazing. It is the first semi-final for me, and I actually didn’t expect it to happen here,” she said. “It is exciting and I am looking forward to it already.”
According to Oddschecker, Williams is an 11/10 favorite to win an eighth Wimbledon crown, followed by Halep at 2/1. Svitolina and Strycova, meanwhile, are 13/2 and 11/1 outsiders respectively.