2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova earned a remarkable 20th victory from 23 grand slam quarter-final appearances with a hard-fought 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-2 win over American Coco Vandeweghe at Wimbledon on Tuesday, while top seed Serena Williams overcame Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and Spain's Garbine Muguruza reached her first Grand Slam semi-final by beating Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky.
The Russian fourth seed, finalist at Wimbledon only once since her title win, had not dropped a set in this year's tournament coming into the last-eight contest. However, after a relatively untroubled first set on Centre Court, she lost a hugely entertaining second as the two six-foot-plus blondes with matching white visors slugged it out.
Vandeweghe, the only unseeded player in the last eight, showed plenty of grit, not least when breaking as Sharapova served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, whipping up the Centre Court crowd in the process.
Sharapova then displayed her own fighting spirit when, despite again struggling with her serve, she twice saved set point before Vandeweghe's fearless deep hitting earned her the tiebreak and dreams of an upset victory.
In the final set, Sharapova quickly seemed to take control with a break in the second game to race to a 3-0 lead but Vandeweghe refused to lay down or ease off and broke back to trail 3-2, again urging the crowd to get behind her as she marched back to her chair.
Sharapova struggled for consistency all day but put together a run of aggressive, accurate returns together to break again for a 4-2 lead and then landed a rare ace to finish off her next service game to make it 5-2.
This time there was no coming back as Sharapova then broke again to take the match and set up a semi-final against top seed Williams.
"I was pretty dominant in the first and early in the second set but things slipped away," said the five-times grand slam champion. "She's playing with a lot of confidence but I really regrouped in the third.
"You have to give everything you have on a special occasion on a special court.
"It's been a while since I've been at the semi-final stage (at Wimbledon) so I'm really happy."
Serena Williams of the USA reacts after winning the second set during her women's singles quarter-final match of the 2015 Wimbledon Championships against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London, on July 7, 2015. Williams won 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. (Reuters Photo)
Williams overpowers Azarenka
Top seed Williams overpowered Azarenka in an absorbing Wimbledon quarter-final on Tuesday, recovering from a set down to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
The American, who will face Russia's Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals, is two wins away from holding all four Grand Slam titles concurrently -- the so-called Serena Slam she also achieved in 2002-03.
The 33-year-old was second best in the first set against the Belarussian former world number one on Centre Court, but she found an extra gear and dominated thereafter.
Three consecutive aces at 4-2 in the third set moved her to within a game of victory and although 23rd seed Azarenka hung on and threatened to break back, Williams would not be denied and stayed on course for a 21st grand slam title.
"It was fun out there and I saw Victoria smiling as well, we both really enjoyed it," five-times Wimbledon champion Williams, who has won 26 grand slam matches in a row, said in a TV interview.
Garbine Muguruza of Spain celebrates after winning her women's singles quarter-final match of the 2015 Wimbledon Championships against Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London, on July 7, 2015. (Reuters Photo)
Muguruza reaches first Grand Slam semi
Muguruza's new-found love affair with grass blossomed further as she became the first Spanish woman in 18 years to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Bacsinszky.
The 21-year-old, who took instant dislike to the lush green surface after losing her first match on it three years ago in Birmingham, found her comfort zone to outwit Bacsinszky.
Muguruza, who was three years old when fellow Spaniard Aranxta-Sanchez Vicario reached the last four in 1997, pocketed the first set when her Swiss rival whipped a forehand wide. The 20th seed kept up the momentum in the second.
After watching 15th seed Bacsinszky roll the ball into the net on match point, Muguruza collapsed on to her back before getting back up to bounce around the court in joy.
She will next face 2012 runner-up and 13th seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who beat 21st seed Madison Keys of the United States 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-3.
Radwanska hit only 13 winners on Court One, but was able to take advantage of 40 unforced errors from Keys, while making only seven herself. The 26-year-old will be making her fourth Grand Slam semi-final appearance and her third at Wimbledon.