Serena Williams fended off a determined challenge from unseeded Czech Petra Kvitova on Thursday to book a Wimbledon final date against Russian 21st seed Vera Zvonareva.
"I definitely worked really hard," the defending champion and top seed said in a courtside interview after the 7-6 6-2 victory. "I didn't expect to get as far at the beginning of the tournament.
"It's such a blessing to still be in the tournament."
Zvonareva has already got the better of Williams once at this year's tournament when she and partner Elena Vesnina beat Serena and sister Venus in the women's doubles on Wednesday.
Kvitova, the world number 62, had been expected to be little more than a sacrificial lamb on Williams' route to a fourth crown at the All England Club, but the feisty Czech gave as good as she got in a tight first set.
From the off the 20-year-old Kvitova showed she was going to be no pushover, drawing an appreciative 'ooh' from the Centre Court crowd with a crosscourt forehand before earning a break point in the opening game.
The left-hander saved a break point in the next game and won her second service game against Williams to love, defying some observers who had predicted a Serena whitewash.
She was quick around the court, held her own in the longer rallies and produced some exquisitely placed shots in a first-set performance that defied her lowly world ranking.
The pressure and the breezy conditions seemed to get to Williams who struggled with her forehand and was broken in the fifth game.
The American broke back for 4-4 and finally found her feet when the set went into a tiebreak.
Williams' first serve was challenged by Kvitova but Hawk-Eye showed it had correctly been called in.
That decision seemed to galvanise Williams, although it still took a third set point for her to win the tiebreak 7-5 with a huge 115mph service bomb that Kvitova could barely get her racket to.
Kvitova battled defiantly in the second set but Williams had found her stride.
A double fault handed Williams her second break for a 5-2 lead, although the 28-year-old still needed a piece of luck to seal victory on her third match point.
The ball hit the net cord and dropped like a stone just out of reach of a desperately onrushing Kvitova.
Serena held up her hand in apology as she walked to the net and commiserated with her opponent before performing a curtsy to the applauding crowd.
And her opponent is...
Russia's Vera Zvonareva has advanced to her first Grand Slam final after coming from behind to defeat unseeded Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova 3-6, 6-3 6-2 in the semifinals of Wimbledon. The Bulgarian won the first set Thursday after breaking the 21st-seeded Zvonareva's serve in the sixth game, with the aid of a net cord.
The momentum swung the Russian's way after she broke Pironkova in the sixth game of the second on her way to levelling the match. Zvonareva broke Pironkova in the first and fifth games of the third setr then saved two break points in the sixth game before converting her second match point.
Pironkova's defeat ended her bid to become the first unseeded woman to reach the final at the All England Club.
Paes in last four
Second seeded pairing of Leander Paes and Cara Black of Zimbabwe entered the semifinlas of the mixed doubles with a hard fought three set win over 12th seeds Paul Hanley and Yung-Jan Chan, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3. Paes will play his men’s doubles partner in the semis. Lukas Dlouhy and his partner Iveta Benesova beat Dimitriy Tursunov and Vera Dushevina to set up the semifinal clash.
Nadal plays Murray
With six-time champion Roger Federer out, Rafael Nadal is now the favorite for the Wimbledon men's title.
The top-ranked Spaniard plays in the semifinals Friday against No. 4-seeded Andy Murray, trying to become the first British man in 72 years to reach the final.
The other semifinal pits No. 3 Novak Djokovic against No. 12 Tomas Berdych.
South Africa's Wesley Moodie and his Belgian partner Dick Norman were knocked out of the men's doubles semi-finals in a five-set thriller on Thursday. The seventh seeds were beaten 7-6 (7/3), 6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3 by Jurgen Melzer of Austria and Germany's Philipp Petzschner, an unseeded pair, before a bumper crowd on Court One. Moodie, 31, won the men's doubles here in 2005, playing with Australia's Stephen Huss.