Williams Rains on Sharapova's Parade

ReutersMaria Sharapova looking down toward the end of her semifinal loss to Venus Williams at Wimbledon on Thursday.
WIMBLEDON, England -- Venus Williams earned the sweetest victory yet in her career revival, beating 2004 champion Maria Sharapova 7-6 (2), 6-1 Thursday in the rain-delayed Wimbledon semifinals.

Gritting her teeth in determination between points, Williams kept Sharapova on the run with thunderous groundstrokes into the corners.

After Sharapova hit a backhand wide on the second match point, Williams hopped for joy, threw her fists in the air and doubled over in laughter as the Centre Court crowd roared.

Seeded just 14th, Williams is a two-time Wimbledon champion and two-time runner-up, but it has been nearly four years since her fourth and most recent Grand Slam championship.

She will now be involved in a major final, scheduled for Saturday, for the first time since sister Serena beat her for the Wimbledon title in a memorable final in 2003.

Dueling from the baseline, Williams matched Sharapova shot for shot and even grunt for grunt as both players hit with power and precision. Williams was steadier on the pivotal points, breaking serve four times, and she finished with 23 winners to 13 for Sharapova.

Williams avenged her younger sister's upset loss to Sharapova in last year's final. Venus earlier upheld family pride with a fourth-round victory over Jill Craybas, who had upset two-time champion Serena less than 48 hours earlier.

Now 5-0 in Wimbledon semifinals, Venus has yet to lose a set in six rounds this year.

The semifinals began after a rain delay of more than four hours.

Because of the wait into the late afternoon, the match between top-ranked Lindsay Davenport and Amelie Mauresmo was moved to Court No. 1, allowing the Sharapova-Williams match to start at the same time on Centre Court.

Davenport led Mauresmo 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4), 5-3, when another rain delay halted their match.