WIMBLEDON, England – With a little luck at the end, defending champion Maria Sharapova (search) returned to the Wimbledon (search) semifinals by beating fellow Russian Nadia Petrova 7-6 (6), 6-3 Tuesday.
In the final game, Sharapova clipped the net on consecutive points — and won both. The first allowed her to save the only break point she faced.
When Petrova sent a forehand long on the first match point, the No. 2-seeded Sharapova let loose a shriek, then happily stretched her arms skyward as if doing calisthenics. She extended her grass-court winning streak to 22 matches.
"Finishing off the matches is tough," Sharapova said. "It gave me shivers in my body. It's just so good to be in the semis again."
Top-seeded Lindsay Davenport (search) also reached the semifinals by beating U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6 (1), 6-3.
Davenport, the 1999 Wimbledon champion, will next face third-seeded Amelie Mauresmo. The Frenchwoman topped Anastasia Myskina 6-3, 6-4 earlier Tuesday.
Davenport, who said she was considering retiring at end of '04, has reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon every year since 1997.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams also advanced to the semifinals after beating French Open runner-up Mary Pierce 6-0, 7-6 (10).
Williams, who won the title at the All England Club in 2000 and '01, was making her first appearance in a Grand Slam quarterfinal since last year's French Open. The 14th-ranked Williams will next face Sharapova.
The biggest upset of the tournament continued to be the mostly dry weather, and the quarterfinals began with more sunshine and windy, 78-degree conditions.
Sharapova, who lost just 17 games in the first four rounds, survived two close sets in a baseline battle with the No. 8-seeded Petrova. There were only three break points, and just one converted — by Sharapova for a 2-0 lead in the second set.
In the tiebreaker, Sharapova leaped into a forehand and struck a winner to lead 7-6. Another forehand winner on the next point gave her the set.
The No. 3-seeded Mauresmo showed the Centre Court crowd how effective her game can be on grass. She played serve-and-volley, chipped and charged on returns and smartly mixed the pace of her shots. Like Sharapova, Mauresmo has yet to lose a set in five rounds.
Shaky nerves have plagued Mauresmo in the past, but she calmly served out the victory at love. When the No. 9-seeded Myskina sailed a backhand long on match point, Mauresmo leaped with glee and punched the air.
Mauresmo, a former No. 1 player seeking her first Grand Slam title, lost in the semifinals in 2002 and 2004. She missed the 2003 tournament with an injury.
The men's quarterfinals are Wednesday. Two-time defending champion Roger Federer plays No. 21-seeded Fernando Gonzalez, and No. 2 Andy Roddick faces frequent practice partner Sebastien Grosjean.
It has been 21 months since Roddick won his only major title at the 2003 U.S. Open, and his fortunes turned on a handful of points. Four of his past six Grand Slam losses have gone five sets.
That made his second-round, five-set victory over Daniele Bracciali especially sweet. He beat No. 15 Guillermo Coria 6-3, 7-6 (1), 6-4 in the fourth round Monday and acknowledged the title being on his mind.
"It's close, but it's far, if that makes sense," Roddick said. "I'm not good enough to overlook the next two matches. I have to get through these first."
Potential remaining obstacles include nemesis Federer, who claimed his second successive Wimbledon title by beating Roddick in last year's final.
The other quarterfinal in Federer's half of the draw will be between 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt and No. 26 Feliciano Lopez, the first Spaniard to reach the men's quarterfinals since 1972.
"He's dangerous," third-seeded Hewitt said. "He can mix it up, serve-volley, stay back. He's a lot different than the traditional Spanish players."
Lopez reached the final eight at a major event for the first time thanks to a deceptive left-handed serve.
"I haven't served that many aces in this tournament," he said. "But I'm serving very good. It's not that important only to ace; it's also important where you're serving to play the next shot."
In the semifinals, Roddick would face No. 12 Thomas Johansson or No. 18 David Nalbandian. But first he must get past Frenchman Grosjean, a semifinalist the past two years.
"He has proven that he's one of the top five grass-courters in the world," Roddick said. "But I'm playing pretty well. I feel confident."
Before moving to Austin, Texas, Roddick lived near Grosjean in Boca Raton, Fla., and they frequently practice together on the road.
"We joke a little bit," Grosjean said. "He's a really nice guy. I like to practice with him because he puts a lot of intensity on the practice."
It's the same at Wimbledon, where Roddick is 15-2 in the past three years. The slick grass makes his 135 mph serve especially effective, but his fondness for the place goes beyond the surface.
"It's not only a tennis tournament," he said. "It's a place to go, a place to be. When you drive home, you see the people queuing.
"You see the vines on the wall. They've upheld traditions. They have such a great blend of old and new traditions. It's a special place."