Women’s semi-finals set at Wimbledon

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    With the women’s Wimbledon semi-final fixtures decided, Venus Williams is in the box seat to claim her first Grand Slam singles title since 2008.

    The seven-times major champion comfortably defeated reigning French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in straight sets.

    It was the perfect way to mark her milestone 100th match at the All England Club, having made her debut all the way back in June 1997, a mere two weeks after Ostapenko was born.

    The American will next face local favourite Johanna Konta in the semi-finals after the Brit came from a set down to defeat second seed Simona Halep and deny the Romanian her ascension to the world number one ranking.

    With Angelique Kerber losing to Garbine Muguruza in the fourth round, all Halep needed to do was reach the semi-finals to climb to the top of the rankings.

    But Sydney-born Konta produced a clutch performance in the fifth game of the deciding set, when the 26-year-old broke for a 3-2 lead. She held her nerve to claim victory.

    Halep’s failure to claim the number one ranking means Karolina Pliskova will top the charts when the standings are updated on Monday.

    This comes despite her shock second round loss to Magdalena Rybarikova, who has ridden that momentum all the way into the semi-finals.

    Back to the first semi-final, Konta’s looming clash against Williams will see her meteoric rise up the tennis ranks come full circle.

    Having relocated to Great Britain from Australia during her teens, Konta made her career breakthrough when she upset the American in the first round of the Australian Open, eventually making the semi-finals.

    It would only be the start of a breakthrough year that would also see her win her first WTA title in Stanford, repeating the dose on Venus in the final to do so, reach the final in Beijing where she lost to Agnieszka Radwanska, finish the year in the top ten and be named the WTA’s Most Improved Player.

    This year, Konta won her second career title in Sydney (by defeating Radwanska in the final) and reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open. The Brit then won her third career title in Miami by defeating Caroline Wozniacki.

    While Konta had another poor clay court season, she has bounced back to make the final four at Wimbledon. She has a good shot of becoming the first local female champion since Virginia Wade all the way back in 1977.

    Standing in her way is none other than Venus Williams, who on the basis of her experience will start as the favourite to reach her second major final this year.

    However, Konta has had the experience of defeating Venus twice before, and will fancy her chances of eventually going all the way.

    The other semi-final will pit 2015 finalist and former French Open champion Garbine Muguruza up against the surprise packet of the tournament, 87th-ranked Slovak Magdalena Rybarikova.

    The Spaniard, who dropped out of the top ten after having her title defence ended early at Roland Garros, defeated Russian veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets to advance to the semi-finals at Wimbledon for the second time in three years.

    By virtue of the result, the 23-year-old will re-enter the top ten in the rankings when they are updated on Monday, and will start the overwhelming favourite to reach another final when she lines up against Rybarikova on Thursday.

    Rybarikova, who was ranked deep in the 400s earlier this year, upset American Coco Vandeweghe to become the lowest-ranked Grand Slam semi-finalist since Angelique Kerber (then ranked 92md) at the 2011 US Open.

    Rybarikova will enter her showdown against Muguruza hoping to become just the second player from her country (after Dominika Cibulkova at the 2014 Australian Open) to reach a Grand Slam final.

    Meanwhile, second seed Novak Djokovic completed his interrupted fourth round clash from Tuesday night (AEST) with a straight-sets win over Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

    The Serb was due to face 2010 finalist Tomas Berdych overnight.

    The only way he can regain the world number one ranking is if he goes all the way, and Andy Murray loses his quarter-final tie against Sam Querrey. Rafael Nadal, who was in the box seat to reclaim top spot, is out of the running.

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