Serena and the others
WIMBLEDON, England -- As all the other top players have fallen around her -- including, shockingly, sister Venus -- Serena Williams just keeps moving the chains.
The No. 1 seed rolled into Thursday's semifinals with a muscular, if unspectacular, 7-5, 6-3 win over No. 9-ranked Li Na of China. She is joined in the final four by a curious collection of under-the-radar players: No. 21-ranked Vera Zvonareva of Russia, No. 82 Tzvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria and the Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova, ranked No. 62
Serena, the defending champion, has a total of 12 Grand Slam singles titles. The other three semifinalists have zero. In fact, none of them have even been in a major final.
"It's not mine to lose," Serena said in her postmatch news conference. "It's mine to win. They have just as good of a chance as I do."
Serena said this with a straight face, but it would be quite surprising if she doesn't come out of here with her fourth Wimbledon title.
Li, who hits the ball exceptionally flat, was playing in her second Wimbledon quarterfinal dating back to 2006. She opened the match well, knowing full well that the three previous sets in their head-to-head series had all gone to tiebreakers.
That's where it looked like this one was going, but at 5-all, she came apart like a piņata. Leading 40-love, she threw in back-to-back double faults. A blown forehand volley was the fifth straight dropped point, and that gave Serena the break she was looking for.
Don't miss a moment of the latest tennis coverage from around the world. Follow us on Twitter and stay informed. Join »
Serena served out the set and finished it with a clean backhand winner. Eighty minutes after it began, she was in the semifinals; Serena had only one unforced error in the second set.
She has now won 12 consecutive matches here at the All England Club and her serve is still superior to the rest of the field. She has authored 73 aces in five matches this year.
"I don't feel like I've been playing my best tennis at these championships," Serena said. "It would be a good one to get under my belt."
Three things I KNOW I think
1. The number 82 turns out to be quite lucky (unless you are an American in England): The two biggest upset victims this fortnight, Venus Williams and Andy Roddick, were each beaten by opponents ranked No. 82 in the world -- Tsvetana Pironkova and Yen-Hsun Lu.
2. Nobody wanted to win that Kaia Kanepi-Petra Kvitova quarterfinal: Kanepi failed to convert any of her five match point opportunities in the 2-hour, 39-minute match. Kvitova finally cashed in at 8-6 in the third. Maybe it's because the winner gets to play No. 1 Serena Williams.
3. I can't wait for Rafael Nadal-Robin Soderling: This is the fourth time they've met in a Grand Slam. Rafa beat Soderling at Roland Garros in 2006 and in a marathon match in Wimbledon 2007. The Swede got payback at last year's French Open, bouncing Nadal in the fourth round. A month ago, Nadal beat Soderling in straight sets in the final at Roland Garros. Soderling seems like a man spoiling for revenge.
Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
Big, Big John
The ludicrous, record-breaking five-set, three-day match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut -- decided by a 70-68 fifth set -- never seems to end. Isner, who won that first-round match and fell easily in the second to Thiemo de Bakker, is back in the States and reveling in his 15 minutes of fame.
On Monday in New York, the 6-foot-9 Isner appeared on "Good Morning America" and CNN and stopped by the "David Letterman Show" to tape the Top Ten List. Our favorites on thoughts that went through Isner's mind during the 11-hour tennis match:
No. 9: We've been playing so long I've forgotten -- am I Isner or Mahut?
No. 7: Wonder if I'll be sore tomorrow?
No. 6: I'm gonna lay back until 51-50, then make my move.
No. 4: Why couldn't I have played Federer? It would have been over in 15 minutes.
No. 1: Larry King has had marriages that didn't last this long.
The fun continued Tuesday, with a breakfast at The New York Times, and later, the Yankees game. On Wednesday, Isner will appear on "Fox & Friends" and then, presumably, return home to Tampa, Fla., where he has a few weeks off before playing in Atlanta.
Grace Min, a 16-year-old who trains at the USTA national center in Boca Raton, Fla., beat the tournament's top seed and reigning French Open junior champion Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine in the first round. On Tuesday, she followed that up by reaching the third round with a 7-5, 7-5 win over Polina Pekhova of Belarus.
Sloane Stephens, 17, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is also through to the third round after a 6-0, 6-4 win over Daria Gavrilova of Russia. Her next opponent: No. 3 seed Timea Babos of Hungary.
On the boys' side, 17-year-old Denis Kudla advanced to the third round with a 7-5, 6-2 over Liam Brody of Great Britain. The match required only 68 minutes. Kudla's career high ITF junior raking is No. 3.
Grand Slam singles wins (38)
Only four former Grand Slam champions still alive at Wimbledon, but they could all go the distance. Here's a breakdown of the victories as the ESPN.com contest winds down:
Serena Williams (five victories), Roger Federer (4), Rafael Nadal (4), Novak Djokovic (4). Eliminated: Venus Williams (4), Kim Clijsters (4), Andy Roddick (3), Lleyton Hewitt (3), Justine Henin (3), Maria Sharapova (3), Svetlana Kuznetsova (1).
No. 2 Rafael Nadal versus No. 6 Robin Soderling: There is much history between these two. This is a rematch of the 2007 five-day, rain-soaked, third-round, five-set marathon here at Wimbledon won by Rafa. These two also met last year at the French Open and Soderling got even, handing Nadal his first loss at Roland Garros.
ESPN.com prediction: Soderling in four.