Venus sets up date with Safina

LONDON: Defending champion Venus Williams closed in on a sixth Wimbledon title with

a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska whose quarter-final challenge melted in the searing heat today.

It will be the 29-year-old American’s eighth semi-final appearance in 10 years here and she next tackles Dinara Safina, the world

No 1 and top seed, who will be playing in her first. Venus, bidding to become the first woman to win a hat-trick of Wimbledon titles since Steffi Graf’s three-in-a-row from 1991 to 1993, has now won 32 consecutive sets at the All England Club, a run stretching back to the third round in 2007.

Venus breezed through the first set in 27 minutes, serving up two love games on her way to a 5-0 lead before the 11th seeded Radwanska got on the board. The Pole broke to love to lead 2-0 in the second set but that was as good as it got for the 20-year-old who had no answer to the American’s brutal hitting power. Venus ran away with the next six games to claim victory in 68 minutes.

“I really had to play well. It was close at the start of the second set. She’s a good grass court player so I’m happy just to get through,” said the third seed.

Radwanska admitted that in hot, fast conditions, it is almost impossible to defeat Venus. “She was serving and hitting the ball so strongly. Her game is so powerful, it was very hard to do anything on the court,” said Radwanska.

Safina, still searching for a first Grand Slam title, had to come back from a set down for the second day in succession as the Russian saw off unseeded German teenager Sabine Lisicki 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-1. Safina was hit with a code violation for racquet abuse when she double-faulted on set-point in the first set tie-break, but she recovered her composure to make the last four. “I think I was Santa Claus today serving so many double faults,” said Safina, who served up 15 in all. “It’s not going to be easy playing against Venus. She likes playing on grass and I have nothing to lose.”

Russian fourth seed Elena Dementieva, like Safina still without a Grand Slam title, reached her second successive semi-final with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Francesca Schiavone. Dementieva will meet Serena Williams, a 6-2, 6-3 winner over Victoria Azarenko, next.