Sharapova streaks past Dementieva

Maria Sharapova has been one of the more prominent voices in the campaign for women to be paid equal prize money and was in combative mood after her quarter-final victory here yesterday over Elena Dementieva. "You guys wanted some entertainment during a women's match," the 2004 Wimbledon champion told reporters after her 6-1, 6-4 victory. "You got some."

Unfortunately Sharapova was referring not to her 70-minute demolition of her fellow Russian but to a male streaker who had cartwheeled across the court when she led by a set and 3-0. The intruder, who was left to parade his wares for several seconds before being ushered away under a red blanket, raised the biggest cheer of the match.

If Dementieva failed to provide much of a test, her opponent was not complaining. Sharapova has spent more time on court here this year than any of the other semi-finalists - she now meets Amélie Mauresmo, while Kim Clijsters will play Justine Henin-Hardenne - and was the only one of that quartet who had dropped a set on the way to the last four, having taken two and a half hours to beat Flavia Pennetta in the fourth round. The semi-finals bring together the world's top four players and the tournament's top four seeds.

The advocates of equal pay frequently point to the intense competition at the top of the women's game, which was reflected in the fact that at the start of play yesterday three of those four had a chance of being world No 1 come Saturday night (although Clijsters is now the only one who can dislodge Mauresmo from the pinnacle).

Sharapova would also have been in contention but for the ankle injury that kept her off the court for more than two months before the French Open. Her ring-rustiness was then exposed when she lost to Jamea Jackson in the semi-finals at Edgbaston and her form here has fluctuated.

The first game yesterday hardly offered the prospect of a strenuous work-out. Sharapova won it with a decent forehand, but the preceding seven points had all ended on unforced errors. The 19-year-old was soon leading 3-0 and when Dementieva opened the next game with two consecutive double faults it seemed that the match might be over before some of the ticket-holders had even arrived following lunch.

Dementieva's achievements in reaching two grand slam finals and a world No4 ranking (she is currently No8) are remarkable for a player with such a fundamental flaw in her game. Sharapova says she has seen the 24-year-old serve well enough in practice, but in match play Dementieva's service can look as threatening as a bowl of strawberries. Nor did her six double faults here tell the full story, for Sharapova frequently punished her weak second serves.

Sharapova, serving consistently and hitting her ground strokes with formidable power, took the first set in only 27 minutes and raced into a 4-0 lead before Dementieva finally found some sort of rhythm and won three games in a row. Sharapova, however, remained focused on the task in hand and served out for the match. She has now won five of her six matches against her fellow Russian.

"I definitely played a lot better than I did yesterday [against Pennetta] and I knew I had to if I wanted to win," Sharapova said. "She has a very good return, so that first serve percentage [Sharapova put 68 per cent of first serves in court] is very important. I don't feel as though it has to be a big serve. It's more a question of placement than power against her."

Dementieva did not think she had played badly but admitted she had trouble returning serve. Asked what she thought of Sharapova's squealing on almost every stroke, Dementieva said she found it "a little bit too much" and suggested the umpire should "calm her down a little bit". She added: "Next time I beat her I will say something. But when you're losing something like 6-1, 4-1 it doesn't look good if you go to the umpire and talk about how loud she's screaming."

Since winning Wimbledon Sharapova has reached the semi-finals of four grand slam tournaments but failed to make further progress on each occasion. Tomorrow she will meet an opponent hoping to end a similarly disappointing sequence, Mauresmo having lost in the semi-finals on her last three appearances at the All England Club.

However, Mauresmo insists that she feels more relaxed here this year and she held her nerve after a poor second set yesterday against Anastasia Myskina. Mauresmo, who had spent an average of less than an hour on court in the previous four rounds, won 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in 83 minutes. She played a serve-and-volley game with impressive confidence, winning 79 per cent of points on her first serve.

The world No1 will celebrate her 27th birthday today by watching France's World Cup semi-final against Portugal. She was asked whether she thought Les Bleus or herself had the best chance of winning this weekend. "We both have to get to the final first so we'll talk about it on Thursday," she said with a smile.

Women's semi-finals

A Mauresmo (Fr) (1) v M Sharapova (Rus) (4)

J Henin-Hardenne (Bel) (3) v K Clijsters (Bel) (2)

(number in bracket denotes seed) To be played tomorrow.

Yesterday at Wimbledon

* Maria Sharapova survived the intervention of a cartwheeling streaker on Centre Court in a 6-1, 6-4 quarter-final win over Elena Dementieva.

* The top-seeded Frenchwoman Amélie Mauresmo played her way through a mid-match wobble to beat Anastasia Myskina, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

* China's first Grand Slam singles quarter-finalist Li Na went no further, losing to the Belgian No 2 seed Kim Clijsters, 6-4, 7-5.

* The French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne reached the semis with a 6-4, 6-4 win against the French qualifier Severine Bremond.

Sport
Super BowlAfter Katy Perry madness it's back to The Independent's live coverage of Super Bowl 49!
News
See what Twitter had to say about the first half of the Super Bowl
News
people
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

The super-rich now live in their own Elysium - they breathe better air, and eat better food, when they're not making beans on toast for their kids

The super-rich now live in their own Elysium

They breathe better air, eat better food, take better medicine
A generation of dropouts failed by colleges

Dropout generation failed by colleges

£800m a year wasted on students who quit courses before they graduate
Entering civilian life 'can be like going into the jungle' for returning soldiers

Homeless Veterans appeal

Entering civilian life can be like going into the jungle
Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Fifty Shades of Grey director on bringing the hit to the screen
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch