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Dominant Serena books place in Wimbledon final

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 07: Serena Williams of The United States plays a forehand during the Ladies Singles Semi Final match against Elena Vesnina of Russia on day ten of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 7, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
July 7, 2016 02:58 PM

By Ashley Marshall, USTA.com

Even though Serena Williams insists she hasn’t drawn a giant red-and-white bullseye around Steffi Graf’s Open era record of 22 women’s Grand Slam singles titles, her performances at Wimbledon have put her on the brink of making history once more.

Serena has been in pulsating form on the grass of the English capital. And if there was ever any question about her play during the second week of the tournament, that was answered emphatically on Thursday with a 6-2, 6-0 thrashing of semifinal opponent Elena Vesnina.

“My goal has never been 22; I don't talk about that any more,” she said after booking her place in the final.

That 48-minute demolition highlighted everything that has made the 21-time major winner so successful between the lines. She dropped just three points on serve over seven service games – none in the second set – and broke five times, seemingly at will. She sent down 11 aces without a double fault and landed 28 winners to seven unforced errors.

With it, she strolled into her ninth Wimbledon final and her 28th Slam title match overall. Serena has won at least one major in eight of the past nine years, including four in a row as part of her second career ‘Serena Slam’ last summer.

“I’ve been training my mind for years and years and I’ve been preparing for these moments for decades,” the top seed said. “I feel like it’s been experience and it’s been success and it’s been failure and it’s been everything that created the opportunity to be ready in those situations.

The 34-year-old fell two wins shy of replicating Graf’s calendar-year Slam at the US Open last September and is now chasing down the German’s landmark 22 major wins, a record which has stood since 1999.

Of course, Serena has been in this situation before, entering the past three majors as the prohibitive favorite to tie Graf’s mark. She lost in the semifinals of the US Open when the gaze of the sporting world was focused on her expecting success, and she came runner-up earlier this year to first-time Slam winners Angelique Kerber in Australia and Garbiñe Muguruza in France.

“I feel good,” she said. “I felt great in other tournaments, as well. But I feel a little different. I just feel more relaxed and more at peace than I may have been in the past.

“Just sometimes when you are fighting, sometimes you want something so bad, it can hinder you a little bit. Now I'm just a little bit more calm.”

That calmness has seen her drop just 18 total games over her past four matches since being pushed to three sets by fellow American Christina McHale in the second round. Now Serena will now play Kerber on Saturday in a rematch of the Australian Open final.

No. 4 seed Kerber toppled Venus, 6-4, 6-4, in their semifinal on Thursday, denying the siblings an all-Williams final. Kerber is yet to drop a set at The Championships, and her sixth win of the fortnight guarantees she will climb to No. 2 in the world when the new rankings come out on Monday.

While five-time champion Venus was denied a trip to her ninth Wimbledon singles final, she could still walk away from southwest London with silverware. The Williams sisters defeated Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova in the quarterfinals of the women’s doubles on Thursday and will now play No. 8 seeds Julia Goerges and Karolina Pliskova for a spot in the final.