Sharapova advances to Wimbledon semifinals

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WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND (AP) - Maria Sharapova looked like a champion under the Centre Court roof at Wimbledon, advancing to the semifinals at the All England Club for the first time since 2006 with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Dominika Cibulkova on Tuesday.

Sharapova, the only Wimbledon champion remaining in the women’s draw after the Williams sisters were eliminated a day earlier, won eight straight games to win the first set and take control of the second.

The fifth-seeded Russian has not lost a set at this year’s tournament, and she was nowhere near losing one Tuesday.

“It’s been a few years since I got past the fourth round, and now I’m in the semifinals,” said Sharapova, who won the tournament in 2004 and also reached the semifinals in ‘05. “So this a great chance for me to take it a step further.”

Sharapova will next face German wild-card entry Sabine Lisicki. She reached her first Grand Slam semifinal by beating 2007 finalist Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-1 on another wet day at Wimbledon.

“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.

Cibulkova held serve in the first game against Sharapova but couldn’t hold another. The only hiccup in the match for Sharapova came in the third game of the second set when Cibulkova broke.

Sharapova won her first Grand Slam title at the All England Club when she was only 17. She added the U.S. Open title in 2006 and the Australian Open title in 2008, but has not won another since _ mainly due to shoulder problems.

“Well, to be in the semis of Wimbledon is a bonus,” said Sharapova, who finished with 23 winners and five aces. “To be able to come back and play tennis after a big injury _ I was just quite happy to be back on the court. So to achieve this is wonderful. But the tournament isn’t over.”

But with the Williams sisters, who have combined to win nine of the last 11 Wimbledon titles, both losing in the fourth round, Sharapova may be the one with the experience needed to win.

The rain briefly delayed the start of play Tuesday as the roof was closed, while the opening match on Court 1 started after a 2 1/2-hour delay.

Once it did, Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic reached the Wimbledon semifinals for the second year in a row, beating Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2.

“At the beginning I was better, and I played so good like matches before,” said Kvitova, who had 54 winners to only 10 for Pironkova. “But then I get little nervous, and in my mind was something I don’t know what was it. I was mentally down.”

Pironkova, who eliminated Venus Williams from the tournament for the second straight, lost in the semifinals last year.

Later, Tamira Paszek was playing fourth-seeded Victoria Azarenka on Centre Court after it was moved from Court 1 because of the rain. The winner of that match will meet Kvitova in Thursday’s semifinals.

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