Sharapova, Azarenka reach Wimbledon semis

Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates defeating Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia in their...

Maria Sharapova of Russia celebrates defeating Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia in their quarter-final match at the Wimbledon tennis championships in London June 28, 2011. (REUTERS/Eddie Keogh)

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, Last Updated: 6:54 PM ET

WIMBLEDON - Fourth-seeded Victoria Azarenka and former champion and pre-tournament favorite Maria Sharapova highlighted Tuesday's quarterfinal winners at a rainy Wimbledon.

Azarenka posted her first-ever Grand Slam quarterfinal victory by pounding unseeded Austrian Tamira Paszek 6-3, 6-1 on Centre Court, and Court 1. The match started on Court 1, as Paszek grabbed a 1-0 lead, but rain forced the players off the court, and the match was then moved under the roof on the famed Centre Court.

The 21-year-old Azarenka moved on in 1 hour, 24 minutes by ripping 19 more winners than Paszek (30-11) and piling up five service breaks, compared to only one for the Austrian loser.

The oft-shrieking Azarenka, who titled at the big event in Miami earlier this season, will now appear in her first-ever major semifinal after going 0-4 in her previous Grand Slam quarters.

Azarenka's semifinal opponent on Thursday will be eighth-seeded Czech slugger and fellow 21-year-old Petra Kvitova. The two women have split four career matchups, but Kvitova has won their last two meetings -- a title match victory in Madrid back in May and a third-round bout here at the All England Club last year.

Meanwhile, the fifth-seeded former world No. 1 Sharapova made short 6-1, 6-1 work of diminutive Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova, also under the roof on Centre Court.

The rout was over in exactly one hour, as Sharapova piled up 23 winners, compared to only three for the 24th-seeded Cibulkova. The tall Russian also tallied six service breaks, compared to only one for the Slovakian loser.

Cibulkova upset Sharapova in Madrid earlier this season.

The 22-year-old Cibulkova dropped to 1-2 in her career Grand Slam quarterfinals, and this marked her first-ever round-of-eight match at Wimbledon.

The 24-year-old Sharapova is a three-time Grand Slam champion, including her lone Wimbledon title, as a 17-year-old, back in 2004. She'll now appear in her 12th career major semifinal (4-7) and her first Wimbledon semi in five years.

"It's been a few years since I got past the fourth round, and now I'm in the semifinals," Sharapova said. "So this a great chance for me to take it a step further."

The French Open semifinalist Sharapova will meet German wild card Sabine Lisicki on Thursday. The Russian topped the German in Miami earlier this year.

"This is a player that's playing with a tremendous amount of confidence right now and playing really great grass-court tennis, so it'll be a really tough match but I certainly look forward to it," Sharapova said.

Meanwhile, an eighth-seeded Kvitova reached her second straight Wimbledon semifinal by holding off 32nd-seeded Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2.

Kvitova cruised in the opening set on Court 1, in a match that was delayed at the outset because of rain, before Pironkova fought back in the second.

The Bulgarian snuck out the second-set tiebreak to push Kvitova, but the big Czech re-established her formidable game in the third and ultimately closed out the affair on her first match point, a resounding ace.

Kvitova advanced in just over two hours by dictating the play with 54 winners, including nine aces, and six breaks. Pironkova struck 44 fewer winners and could manage only two breaks in the setback.

"At the beginning I was better and I played so good like matches before," Kvitova said. "But then I get little nervous, and in my mind was something I don't know what was it. I was mentally down."

Pironkova, like Kvitova, was a surprise Wimbledon semifinalist last year. The 23-year-old Bulgarian upset Venus Williams here on Monday and also stunned the five-time Wimbledon champion in last year's quarterfinals at the All England Club.

Kvitova, who is a three-time titlist on the WTA this year, is trying to become the first lefthanded woman to capture Wimbledon since her fellow Czech native Martina Navratilova prevailed for a record ninth time back in 1990.

The aforementioned Lisicki upset ninth-seeded Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 6-1 under the roof on Centre Court, as rain fell for most of the day Tuesday.

Heavy rain in the afternoon forced six fans to change their seats because of a leak in the roof.

"There were three small leaks to the permanent roof, not the retractable roof," Wimbledon spokesman Johnny Perkins said. "The leaks resulted in six people being relocated."

The wild card Lisicki got the best of Bartoli with her big serve and a series of successful drop shots on Day 8 of the fortnight.

Lisicki was up a set and leading 5-4 in the second when Bartoli decided her day wasn't done just yet. The French star would fight off three match points before pulling out the second set. The big-serving Lisicki put her first match point into the net with a backhand, missed her second with a poor drop shot into the net, and misfired on the third with an errant forehand that sailed wide. She then double-faulted, as Bartoli broke to 5-5 in the second. It marked the German's first double fault of the match.

Bartoli then held for a brief 6-5 lead before Lisicki held to force a tiebreak. Bartoli captured the tiebreak to force a third, but the Frenchwoman appeared to run out of gas after that.

It was all Lisicki in the third, as she jumped out to a 3-0 lead, broke for a 5-1 advantage, and converted on her fourth match point to reach her first-ever Grand Slam semifinal.

The match ended in 2 hours, 21 minutes, as Lisicki wound up with nine aces among her 52 winners and broke Bartoli's serve six times, compared to only three breaks for the loser from France. Bartoli recorded 40 fewer winners (52-12) in the setback.

"I cannot explain how I feel at the moment," Lisicki said. "It was just such a tough road back and it's so wonderful to be standing on Centre Court in Wimbledon which I love so much. I'm just so happy."

The 21-year-old Lisicki is the first German woman to reach a Grand Slam semi since the legendary Steffi Graf reached the Wimbledon final four back in 1999.

Lisicki is now 11-0 on grass this year, as she titled at the Wimbledon tuneup in Birmingham earlier this month.

The 26-year-old Bartoli was the 2007 Wimbledon runner-up to Venus Williams. She reached the French Open semifinals earlier this month and is now 2-2 in her career Grand Slam quarterfinals.


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