A Champagne cork popped somewhere on Centre Court four games into Serena Williams’s Wimbledon semi-final and while it was a tad premature, her 6-2 6-0 thrashing of Elena Vesnina suggested she could celebrating something special come Saturday.
The top-seeded American will be taking nothing for granted, having seen her bid to match Steffi Graf’s modern era record of grand slam titles stuck one short on 21 for a year, but it was a menacing show of strength, albeit against an overawed opponent.
She dropped only three points on serve in an embarrassingly one-sided 49 minutes – crunching down one 123mph delivery that topped the women’s speed charts at this year’s tournament.
From the moment the 34-year-old nonchalantly broke serve in the opening game the writing was on the wall for a leaden-footed Vesnina appearing in her first grand slam semi-final.
By the time the latecomers took their seats two games later, Serena was 3-0 ahead and her place in a ninth Wimbledon title already looked in the bag.
Vesnina held serve twice in the opening set, prompting sympathetic applause, but the world number 50 was swept aside in the second set, winning only five points, as Serena marched to singles victory number 85 at the All England Club.
The six-times Wimbledon champion will play elder sister Venus for the ninth time in a grand slam final if the 36-year-old defeats Germany’s Angelique Kerber in the day’s second semi.
“It would be great and there would be a Williams on the trophy and that is the ultimate goal for us,” Serena said.
Since winning last year’s Wimbledon title, she has proved surprisingly fallible, losing in the semi-finals of the US Open to Roberta Vinci when a calendar Grand Slam loomed.
She then lost to Kerber in the Australian Open final and was beaten by Garbine Muguruza in the French Open final.
“It’s weird, I can’t believe I’m in the finals again. I’m zero and two for (grand slam finals) this year so I want to get at least one,” she said.
Vesnina, the first unseeded woman to reach the semi-finals at Wimbledon since Sabine Lisicki in 2011, had served the second-most aces, after Serena, coming in to the match.
She managed four on Thursday, but it was futile.
“Let’s be real, I’m guessing it’s a combination of fatigue and her freezing. Her legs looked like they weighed 200 pounds each,” was commentator John McEnroe’s blunt assessment.
Vesnina, who will rise into the world’s top 25 having been down at 122 in February, walked off smiling and made no excuses.
“I went in there with a game plan. But today it was all about Serena,” she said.