WIMBLEDON, England – Judging by results this year, Serena Williams shouldn't be considered the favorite among the four remaining women at Wimbledon.
She's won fewer matches in 2012 than any of the other three semifinalists, has just the third-highest ranking among them and is by far the oldest of the group.
But when it comes to crunch time in a Grand Slam tournament, there's usually no one better.
Williams is two wins away from her 14th major title, while the other three semifinalists have one Grand Slam victory among them. Two of them — Agnieszka Radwanska and Angelique Kerber — have never been in a major final.
Of the 20 previous Grand Slam semifinals Williams has played in, she won 17.
So while Williams still has to get past Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka on Thursday, there's no question who her rivals view as the player to beat.
"Serena is just great champion. When she's on fire, I really don't want her on my part of the draw. That's for sure," said the third-ranked Radwanska. "I think she's still in shape. She's still looking good on court. She's playing still a good tennis, running like (she's) 18 years old."
Williams is 30 now, actually, and is bidding to become the first woman at least that age to win a major title since Martina Navratilova won at Wimbledon in 1990 at the age of 33. The second-oldest remaining woman is Kerber at 24, while Azarenka is 22 and Radwanska 23.
But with age comes experience, and Williams has more of that than the other three combined. In fact, she has more career titles (41), more wins at Wimbledon (65) and more wins at Grand Slams (216) than the other three combined.
Williams, though, was quick to point out that momentum also plays a part, and that Azarenka has an edge in that department. The Belarusian started the year with a 26-match winning streak that included her first Grand Slam title in Australia.
"She's had a better year than I have," Williams said. "She's been so successful already, like I said, winning a Grand Slam. Going against a player like that, I feel like she almost has an advantage, I guess. So that makes me really relaxed and I can just kind of hit."
She did that emphatically in her quarterfinal against Petra Kvitova, eliminating the defending champion in straight sets underneath the roof on Centre Court on Tuesday to send a clear message that she's back to her best.
Williams has won her last five matches against Azarenka, including in the final in Madrid on clay this year when the Belarusian was ranked No. 1. Azarenka is well aware of her history against the American.
"History? I don't know. I lost to her most of the times," Azarenka said. "Obviously she's a great fighter. She never gives up. You always see that, no matter what the score is, she will go for her shots. She has a huge serve, which we all know. Every player that played against her felt that."
The Azarenka-Williams match certainly has the highest profile of the two semifinals.
Radwanska is in the last four of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in her career, while the eighth-ranked Kerber lost in the semifinals of the 2011 U.S. Open for her best result in a major.
Still, either Radwanska or Azarenka will be the new No. 1 after this tournament, overtaking Maria Sharapova after the Russian star lost in the fourth round.
"It's for sure one of my best things in my career right now to be in the second semis at the Grand Slams," Kerber said. "Actually, I have nothing to lose right now."
Radwanska had lost five previous quarterfinals at Grand Slams, but is now the first Polish player to reach the semifinals of a major in the Open era. She has played Kerber four times, with each match going to three sets and the series even at 2-2.
"We played a couple times each other. Always went three sets, always tough," Radwanska said. "Never on grass. It's just going to be another challenge. I just hope I can still play my good tennis and we'll see."
Williams, meanwhile, is in her eighth Wimbledon semifinal, having won the title here in 2002, 2003, 2009 and 2010. She was runner-up in 2004 and 2008.
So just reaching the last four in itself isn't exactly something that has Williams excited.
"Semifinal, it's great in a way," she said. "But at the end of the day, if you're not first, you're last."