Angelique Kerber, the eighth seed, won through to the Wimbledon semi-finals for the first time on Centre Court tonight, beating fellow German Sabine Lisicki 6-3, 6-7(7), 7-5 in 2hr 30mins.
What had started off as a one-sided contest, with the left-handed Kerber winning points consistently against a rival who was a semi-finalist last year, turned into a magnificent scrap as they fought for victory.
Kerber had two match points at 5-4 in the second set and another in the subsequent tie-break, but just edged out her rival as the demands on stamina, technique and will to win increased in the late stage.
Kerber said: "It was a very tough match. Everyone thought it was tough for both of us. She was playing unbelievable in the third set. My mind was on the finals in Eastbourne where I lost from match point up. I had my chances but I could not take it in the second set. The challenge in the third set when she was serving for it saved my life today. In the third set she played very good; I had no chanvce against her in some games."
The growing intensity of the match ensured that the crowd grew to near capacity and although Kerber had won all four of her previous matches against Lisicki, she had never played her in a Grand Slam match – certainly not at the quarter-final stage – with the big rewards waiting around the corner.
Lisicki had said after winning her opening match on Court 16 that "there is no better place" than playing at Wimbledon and even if she did not quite reach the heights she had hoped for on Tuesday she showed that battling all the way and resisting when things seemed almost lost were honourable characteristics.
Germany has not had a woman into the later stages since Steffi Graf in 1999, but Lisicki's relish for the task became obvious as she served an ace on the first point. She could not follow that up because she dropped her opening serve, perhaps leaving Kerber thinking the task may not be too demanding.
When Kerber opened up with a love service game, ending with a scorching backhand winner down the line, Lisicki did seem to have problems and they did not go away. Kerber held serve in a love game for 3-3, broke Lisicki again for 4-1, but lost her own serve for the first time in the next game as Lisicki ran for a forehand winner on her second break point.
At the 32-minute mark and with successive double faults, Lisicki dropped the first set, after which Kerber went to the locker-room and Lisicki had a medical time out to have her hand treated.
When they resumed Kerber maintained control and deserved to with the accuracy and pace of her ground-strokes. She broke for 2-0 at the start of the second set but lost her own serve in the fifth game, giving Lisicki some hope at last.
Lisicki forged on but ran into more trouble at 5-4 to Kerber when she had two match points against her before holding on.
In the tie-break Lisicki saved a third match point at 7-6 with a backhand winner and gratefully clinched the set after 99 minutes to square the match.
In the final set the match reached new levels of intensity after breaks of serve either way in the opening two games. The next key game for Lisicki was to break back from 2-3 down to level the set at 3-all.
Lisicki then broke for 5-3 on a Kerber double fault. But serving for the match, it was Lisicki’s term to falter, as she did not win a point.
Kerber regained the lead at 6-5 and with her nose in front, finished the task in style.