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Stunning Zheng sneaks in between Williams sisters

Latest update : 2008-07-01

Former Wimbledon champions Serena and Venus Williams eased into the women's semi-finals, where they will meet Elena Dementieva and wildcard Zheng Jie, who made history by becoming the first Chinese player to reach a Grand Slam semi.

Venus and Serena Williams cruised closer to another Wimbledon final on Tuesday, but they were upstaged by pint-sized Zheng Jie's history-making performance.

Zheng became the first Chinese player to reach the last four of a Grand Slam, a timely national boost as the Beijing Olympics looms, with a famous 6-2, 5-7, 6-1 win over Czech 18th seed Nicole Vaidisova.

The Chinese wildcard, who put out world number one Ana Ivanovic in the third round, will tackle Serena, who brushed aside Polish teenager Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 6-0, for a place in the final.

Venus beat Thai veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn 6-4, 6-3 and will face Russian fifth seed Elena Dementieva, who endured a roller-coaster 6-1, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3 win over compatriot Nadia Petrova.

Zheng, 24, the lowest ranked player left in the women's singles at 133, produced a heroic display to better compatriot Li Na, who was the only other Chinese to reach the last eight of a Grand Slam, at Wimbledon in 2006.

"I'm very happy to be in the semi-finals at Wimbledon. These two weeks have been the best of my life," said Zheng.

"I never thought I would be in the semi-finals. There were lots of people watching on TV in China so I knew I had to keep going."

Sixth seed Serena reached the semi-finals with a comfortable win over Radwanska, easing to victory in just 51 minutes.

Serena, the 2002 and 2003 champion, beating Venus on both occasions, had already knocked out her quarter-final opponent's younger sister Urzsula in the second round.

The American beat Zheng in the first round here two years ago but insisted she won't be underestimating the China player.

"I've been watching her play. I think she's doing a fabulous job, and I don't think it's luck, her doing so well. I think she's a really good player," said Serena.

Venus, the champion in 2000, 2001, 2005 and 2007, is now just one victory away from making it seven Wimbledon finals in the last nine years.

"Wimbledon is a special place for me. I've always done well here and at the US Open. They are the big ones for me," she said.

Dementieva reached her first Wimbledon semi-final with a thrilling win over Petrova in a rollercoaster tie where searing temperatures sent both Russians into meltdown on Centre Court.

It was a hard-earned victory for the 26-year-old fifth seed, the highest ranked player left in the tournament after the top four seeds had been culled. Dementieva had led by a set and 5-1 and threw away two match points in a virtual carbon copy of her collapse against Dinara Safina in the French Open quarter-finals.

"I was really tight when I served for the match at 5-2 in the second set and maybe I was thinking about what happened at Roland Garros," said Dementieva.

"The third set was difficult so I just tried to stay positive."

Former world number three Petrova, who made the last eight here in 2005, has been dogged by a brittle temperament throughout her career and that fraility returned to haunt her.

Trailing 2-1 in the first set, she was called for a borderline foot-fault which, in turn, sparked two back-to-back double faults which handed the first break to Dementieva.

The fifth seed reeled off the next six games on her way to taking the first set and creating a 2-0 cushion in the second before Petrova stopped the rot.

As the mercury touched 28 degrees, Dementieva wilted.

A 5-1 lead drifted away as Petrova reeled off five successive games to take the set into a tiebreak.

Dementieva then squandered two match points before Petrova pounced to level the tie with a cool volley.

Dementieva stormed into a 4-0 lead in the decider and held her nerve after dropping serve again in the fifth game to eventually wrap up victory.

Date created : 2008-07-01

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