Serena set for Wimbledon hat-trick

Last updated at 08:05 02 July 2004

The iron will of defending champion Serena Williams gave her a titanic 6-7 7-5 6-4 victory over luckless Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo to book her place in her third successive Wimbledon final.

In a fluctuating semi-final, Serena fell a set and 3-1 down but recovered to book a meeting with Russian teenager Maria Sharapova in Saturday's final when she will seek to complete a hat-trick of Wimbledon singles titles.

The result was another huge disappointment for fourth seed Mauresmo, who lost to Serena at the same stage here in 2002.

The Frenchwoman struggled with a back injury from the middle of the second set and although she battled gamely, the superior fitness of Serena proved decisive.

"It was really tough out there. I just started fighting for every shot," said Serena, who did not play last year after Wimbledon due to injury.

"This is definitely the most special moment right now of my career."

Rain threat

There was the threat of rain and an upset in the air on Centre Court after 17-year-old Sharapova's victory over Lindsay Davenport in the first semi-final.

Mauresmo was thoroughly depressed after her quarter-final failure at the French Open last month and her record against Serena suggested more misery was in store.

Serena had won six of their previous seven meetings, including a 6-1 6-2 thrashing at the 2003 French Open and a 6-2 6-1 demolition in the 2002 Wimbledon semis.

Mauresmo started slowly, gifting Serena an immediate break, but the American squandered two set points at 5-4.

When the tiebreak materialised the champion produced two errors to give her opponent a 6-4 lead and Mauresmo promptly stole the set when another Serena backhand looped long.

The top seed's confidence was shaken and she lost serve to trail 2-1 in the second set as rain momentarily began to sprinkle on court.

Mauresmo's career, though, has been a catalogue of injuries and missed opportunities and when she lost the break at 3-2 with a limp forehand volley, she suddenly appeared to be struggling.

Medical time-out

The 24-year-old missed the grasscourt grand slam last year due to a rib injury but it was for treatment to her back - an area that has given her trouble in the past - that she called a medical timeout after going 4-3 down.

Psychologically the balance had swung and Serena levelled the match when Mauresmo, now grimacing regularly, double-faulted to lose serve and the second set 7-5.

The decider was a thrilling mixture of wild mis-hits, replayed points, brave Mauresmo retrieves and sporadic brilliance from both players.

But at 5-4 Serena raised her level again, setting up match point with a ripping backhand before Mauresmo's wayward forehand gave the American a spell-binding victory, sending her into a dance of delight.

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