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Wimbledon preview: The final four

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Originally published on: 30/06/11 10:22

The bookies favourite to walk away with the Rosewater Dish come Saturday is Maria Sharapova. The Russian hasn’t hung around this late in a Slam for a while but it was evident from day one at these Championships that her trademark steely determination had returned. The 24-year-old has yet to drop a set and her relentless form continued into the last eight when she saw off Dominika Cibulkova 6-1, 6-1.

Sharapova is the only player left in the tournament that can boast a Grand Slam victory, having won at Wimbledon in 2004, and then picking up further wins at the US Open and Aussie Open. She is also the oldest of the remaining semi-finalists and she will need to call on all her experience when she faces German Sabine Lisicki.

Lisicki is the first German to reach this stage at SW19 since a certain Steffi Graf in 1999. Although the inevitable comparisons with the tennis legend may be slightly premature, Lisicki’s form on the grass has been scintillating of late, winning 15 of her last 16 matches while picking up the title in Birmingham along the way.

The German has continuously proved that she isn’t one to shy away from a challenge, and after brushing off Marion Bartoli and Roland Garros champ Li Na, the wildcard will be relishing her clash with the 6ft 2in Russian.

Lisicki, who spent five months on the sidelines last year with an ankle injury, has hit 44 aces so far in the tournament and she will need to utilise this serve if she is going to upset Sharapova.

First up on Centre Court is another fascinating tussle between fourth seed Victoria Azarenka and eighth seed Petra Kvitova in a battle of the headbands. Kvitova is the first Czech player to reach this stage since Jana Novotna in 1998, but with a big left-handed serve the comparisons tend to be drawn with another compatriot and former Wimbledon champion – Martina Navratilova.

Kvitova is no stranger to the Wimbledon semi-finals after falling at this stage in 2010 to eventual winner Serena Williams. The 21-year-old will be hoping to draw on this experience when she takes to the court against Azarenka, who will be making her first Grand Slam final four appearance.

Kvitova emerged victorious the last two times the duo met but Azarenka is sailing on a wave of confidence at the moment having won 32 of her 38 games since March. The Belarusian has picked up two titles in Miami and Marbella but she will know it will take something extra special for her to collect her first Grand Slam trophy here.

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