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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Graf Sends Foes Packing In Quest for Finals Spot

LONDON -- Steffi Graf sent her rivals back to the drawing-board as she continued her remorseless progress toward a Wimbledon final reunion with Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.


It is now 22 months and 33 matches since Graf was last beaten at a grand slam event, ironically by the Spaniard in the final of the U.S. Open in 1994.


But the manner of the German champion's Tuesday 6-3, 6-2 slaughter of Jana Novotna suggested Sanchez Vicario will need all her fighting spirit and, more importantly, huge dollops of luck if the pair do reach the final for a second successive year.


Sanchez Vicario, a 6-4, 6-0 winner over Austrian Judith Wiesner, still has to find a way past American Meredith McGrath, who could become the first unseeded women's finalist in 33 years following her 6-3, 6-1 defeat of compatriot Mary Joe Fernandez.


Graf's semifinal opponent is Japan's Kimiko Date, a 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 winner over Mary Pierce in a fluctuating battle on Center Court between the 12th and 13th seeds which provided the closest contest of an unremarkable day.


Date deserved to experience her first Wimbledon semifinal, and has now reached the last four at three of the four grand slam tournaments.


Yet Graf, chasing her 20th grand slam singles title, continues to cast a huge shadow over the rest of the field.


There was a brief glimmer of hope for the opposition when news filtered through that Graf had withdrawn from her mixed doubles match. It subsequently emerged her partner Heinz Guenthardt had a strained calf, removing yet another distraction from the defending champion's path.


"It was a lot easier than I expected," she agreed after a 61-minute demolition of Novotna, a contest which could not have been further removed from the classic 1993 final which ended in tears for the mercurial Czech.


If Graf does win her seventh Wimbledon singles crown, only Margaret Court with 24 grand slam titles will lie ahead of her.


Sanchez Vicario's hopes of reaching her second successive Wimbledon final depend on a woman with only one grand slam victory in 18 months before she arrived at the All England Club.


The 25-year-old McGrath had lost in the first round of all her previous six grand slam tournaments save the 1995 French Open, only to emerge from the second locker room where the top players rarely venture to reach the last four.


"I just stopped shaking about five minutes ago. I'm really excited," said McGrath, who has been based in Switzerland for the past four years.


(For other results, see Scorecard.)