LONDON (Reuters) - German 11th seed Angelique Kerber reached the Wimbledon semi-finals with a 6-3 7-5 win over Russian Daria Kasatkina on Tuesday but she needed seven match points to see off the 14th seed.
Twice Grand Slam winner Kerber, 30, will next face Latvian 12th seed Jelena Ostapenko in the last four on Thursday after taking an hour and 29 minutes on a distinctly chilly Centre Court.
“I think there are no favourites any more,” said Kerber of her next challenge. “We are in the semis right now. I’m not looking left or right.
“I think the match starts from zero. I mean, the pressure is not always on my side. She (Ostapenko) won a Grand Slam, as well.”
The highest seed left in the women’s draw, 2016 finalist and former world number one Kerber was 3-0 up in the first set before her 21-year-old opponent had time to react.
Kasatkina steadied herself to reach 3-4 before she double-faulted on break point and lamely surrendered the game to Kerber, who then served for the set.
That was to be the story of the match with the Russian, also a French Open quarter-finalist this year, delighting the gasping crowd with outrageously talented returns and shots even she described as ‘crazy’, only to self-destruct on serve.
Kerber again broke to go 3-1 up in the second set before Kasatkina levelled for 3-3 only for another double fault to put Kerber back in the driving seat.
The Russian, who made seven double-faults in the match, broke back again for 4-4 but the German replied in kind immediately.
With Kerber serving for a place in the last four, Kasatkina earned two break points with a forehand and levelled the scores before again failing to hold her serve and being left on the backfoot.
Kasatkina then saved five match points before surviving yet another thanks to Hawkeye, with Kerber’s lob landing just beyond the baseline.
The German finally made sure of her third career Wimbledon semi-final appearance when she won a 16-point game that stretched to five deuces and included one 25-shot rally.
“I think we both played on a really high level, starting from the first point,” said Kerber. “I think the last game shows how good we both played and how she was fighting until the end.”
“I was expecting a match like this,” added the German. “I think for me it was important to be playing aggressive, trying to take the challenge of how she was playing.”
Kasatkina said she had tried to clear her mind as one match point followed another.
“My head was just empty. I didn’t feel any pressure, any fear,” she said. “I was just going on the next point and playing, playing, playing. I mean, almost every match point, it was something like crazy things I was doing.
“Today I showed everything that I can do, all my shots, emotions and stuff. Yes, I lost, but at the end I’m happy with my performance.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris and Christian Radnedge