By Randy Walker
Serena Williams blitzed her way into her seventh Wimbledon final Thursday, firing a new Wimbledon record – and all-time record tying – 24 aces in her 6-3, 7-6 (6) victory over Victoria Azarenka.
Williams, seeded No. 6, will be seeking her fifth Wimbledon title – equaling the number her old sister Venus Williams won – against Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska, seeded No. 3.
Radwanska became the first Pole since Jadwiga Jedrzejowka in 1937 to reach the Wimbledon final with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Angelique Kerber.
Williams broke her own Wimbledon ace record of 23, set during her 6-7, 6-2, 9-7 third-round win Saturday over Jie Zheng of China. Her 24 aces equals the all-time record set by Kaia Kanepi, who hit 24 in a first-round win over Lucie Safarova in Tokyo in 2008.
Williams has served 85 aces in her six matches so far at Wimbledon, four shy of the all-time Wimbledon record, according to THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS (available here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0942257707?ie=UTF8&tag=newchapre-20&linkCode=shr&camp=213733&creative=393185&creativeASIN=0942257707&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books&keywords=bud%20collins%20history%20of%20tennis&qid=1341500938&sr=1-1)
“Watching Serena Williams serve when she is in peak form is astonishing,” wrote tennis historian Steve Flink in his new book THE GREATEST TENNIS MATCHES OF ALL TIME (available here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0942257936?ie=UTF8&tag=newchapre-20&linkCode=shr&camp=213733&creative=393185&creativeASIN=0942257936&ref_=sr_1_1&keywords=Greatest%20tennis%20matches%20of%20all%20time&qid=1341504389&sr=8-1) where he ranks the Serena Williams first serve No.1 of all time. “Her motion is the most natural of any woman player I have ever seen. Her toss is reliable, her velocity impressive, her ability to rack up free points ever apparent. It is a daunting first serve, delivered with power and panache. As the serve goes, so goes Serena Williams.”
Williams sealed what some are calling one of the finest women’s matches ever played on Centre Court with her 24th ace at seven points to six in the second-set tiebreker. The 24 aces is the equivalent of six games, half the amount of games required to win a straight-set match.
“I have been working so hard,” said a cheerful Williams to the BBC after the match. “I really wanted it.”
Williams is coming into Wimbledon after a shock first-round upset in the first round of the French Open last month to Virginie Razzano. She returned to tennis last summer after a year off the circuit after suffering from a serious foot injury, sustained while cutting her foot on a broken glass at a restaurant in Germany in July of 2010. She also suffered from a near-fatal hematoma and pulmonary embolism last year. She has won 13 major singles title, but not one since Wimbledon in 2010.
Williams lead the match 6-3, 3-1, but was broken back in the sixth game by Azarenka, regarded as one of the best serve-returners ever in women’s tennis.
“Victoria is a great player,” said Williams. “She was playing really well. I was getting tight there in the second set. I was happy to get through that second set tiebreak.”
Radwanska won five straight games to claim the first set and held on with her steady style of play to advance into her first career major singles final.
“This is a dream from when I was kid,” said Radwanska. “Everybody’s dream is to play the final of a Grand Slam.”
Said Williams of facing Radwanska Saturday for the women’s title, “She’s going to get every ball back. I am so happy I have gotten this far.”