Sharapova, Williams Make Semifinals

APMaria Sharapova serving to Nadia Petrova during their quarterfinal match on Court No. 1 at Wimbledon on Tuesday.
WIMBLEDON, England --- With a little luck at the end, defending champion Maria Sharapova returned to the Wimbledon semifinals by beating fellow Russian Nadia Petrova 7-6, 6-3 on Tuesday. In the final game, Sharapova clipped the net on consecutive points -- and won both.

Her opponent on Thursday will be two-time champion Venus Williams, who beat Mary Pierce 6-0, 7-6. Williams, bidding for her fifth Grand Slam title and her first since 2001, overcame five set points in the tiebreaker.

France's Amelie Mauresmo reached the semifinals for the third time in four years by beating Anastasia Myskina 6-3, 6-4.

Third-seeded Mauresmo will face top-ranked Lindsay Davenport, the 1999 champion. Davenport finished with an ace to eliminate U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6, 6-3.

Mauresmo, who has yet to lose a set in five rounds, 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 against Myskina.

"I decided to put the pressure on her right from the first game and make her play as many shots as I could," Mauresmo said. "I was able to choose the right ones to come in on, so that was really good."

Shaky nerves have plagued Mauresmo in the past, but she calmly served out the victory at love. When the ninth-seeded Myskina sailed a backhand long on match point, Mauresmo leaped with glee and punched the air.

Mauresmo, a former No. 1 seeking her first Grand Slam title, lost in the semifinals in 2002 and 2004. She missed the 2003 tournament with an injury.

Sharapova survived two close sets in a baseline battle with the eighth-seeded Petrova. In the final game, Sharapova saved the only break point she faced with a net-cord winner, then caught another lucky bounce off the net to win the next point.

"I told the ball to hit the net and roll over," Sharapova joked. "That comes with experience. ... I thanked the fairy for taking the ball and bringing it over the net."

When Petrova sent a forehand long on the first match point, the second-seeded Sharapova let loose her familiar 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," she said. "It gave me shivers in my body. It's just so good to be in the semis again."

The biggest upset of the tournament continued to be the mostly dry weather, and the quarterfinals began with more sunshine and windy conditions.

There were only three break points in Sharapova's match, and just one converted -- by her for a 2-0 lead in the second set. In the tiebreaker, she leaped into a forehand and struck a winner to lead 7-6. Another forehand winner on the next point gave her the set.