FOUR-TIME champion Serena Williams buried Victoria Azarenka under a record firestorm of 24 aces to reach her seventh Wimbledon final yesterday.
The 30-year-old American claimed a 6-3 7-6 (8/6) semifinal win and will tomorrow tackle third seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, the first Pole in a Grand Slam final in 73 years, aiming to claim her 14th Major. As well as a record 24 aces, beating her own best of 23 set against Zheng Jie in the third round, Williams also fired a whopping 45 winners. She has now hit a total of 85 aces in the tournament.
Williams will start as the hot favourite tomorrow, having beaten world No3 Radwanska in their two meetings without dropping a set, including the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2008 where the American lost just four games.
"I've been working so hard, I really wanted it," said Williams, the first 30-year-old to reach the All England Club final since Steffi Graf of Germany in 1999.
"She was playing well and I got a little tight in the second set. I was looking too far in the future. I was so close, but I can't do that. I was happy to get through that second set tie-break," she said.
Williams, who won the first of her four Wimbledons 10 years ago, insisted that the destination of the 2012 crown is far from a foregone conclusion even though she is widely expected to overwhelm the slender Radwanska. The Pole made the final with a 6-3 6-4 win over German eighth seed Angelique Kerber.
"She's doing unbelievable. She's playing so great. Wow, she's going to get every ball back," said the American, whose serving prowess would not look out of place in the men's game.
Williams's 85 is one more than American men's 10th seed Mardy Fish, who finished his campaign on 84. Serena played two doubles matches on Wednesday with her sister Venus, but showed no signs of fatigue against Azarenka, taking the first set courtesy of eight aces and 20 winners, while allowing her opponent just four points on serve.
That was the first set dropped by the 22-year-old Belarusian at the tournament.
Buoyed by a 7-1 winning record against the Australian Open champion, who could have retaken the world No1 spot had she won, Williams broke for a 2-1 lead in the second set, secured with a sweeping forehand service return.
Azarenka hit back to level at 3-3 and then saved a match point in the tie-break. But the record 24th ace, blitzed right down the middle, gave Williams a deserved win.
The 23-year-old Radwanska, who cites winning a Grand Slam and becoming No1 as her goals, will face Williams knowing that victory would take her to the top of the rankings.
"I will do everything in my power to be No1," Radwanska told reporters before succumbing to a coughing fit which caused the news conference to be cut short.
"I played Serena a couple of times but it was a long time ago," Radwanska said.
"She's a very tough opponent and hitting the ball very well. Of course, she's playing great tennis on the grass. "I'm just going to try to mix it up," she added.