London   -   Serena Williams clubbed her way into the Wimbledon semi-finals, draining the last drop of fight from fellow American Alison Riske before sealing a 6-4 4-6 6-3 win in a rip-roaring Centre Court contest on Tuesday.

For two sets, Riske absorbed every last punishing blow from the seven times champion, while her own lightweight jab inflicted some early pain and then levelled the see-saw encounter at 1-1.

Williams’ blows, however, became too frequent and too heavy in the final games, with the weaponised serve pushing the world number 55 Riske back on her heels, while her return worked like an old slugger’s right-hook.

Having knocked out world number one Ash Barty in the last round and having spent over nine hours on court en route to the quarters - the longest path to the last eight of anyone since 2011 - Riske had shown a streak of pure Pittsburgh steel. But Williams, who is hunting down a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title, is tennis tungsten, and recovered superbly from a brief wobble in which she lost the second set and fell a break behind in the third. “I just needed to fight,” said Williams. “She was not giving it to me. I needed to step up and take it. That’s what I had to do.”

Former world number one Simona Halep reached her second Wimbledon semi-final after overcoming an early onslaught to deliver another textbook example of matchplay tennis and dispatch China’s unseeded Zhang Shuai 7-6(4) 6-1 on Tuesday. Just as she did in quelling the lively challenge of 15-year-old Coco Gauff on Monday, Halep initially struggled and looked in real danger when 4-1 down and facing more break points in the opening set. However, the Romanian dug in to see off the threat then played her usual percentage tennis as Zhang lost her way. Seventh-seed Halep now faces Ukrainian eighth seed Elina Svitolina.

Unseeded Czech Barbora Strycova weathered an early storm to flatten British hopes with a 7-6(5) 6-1 defeat of Johanna Konta in the Wimbledon quarter-finals on Tuesday. Konta powered into a 4-1 lead in the first set but Strycova never panicked and used her superior craft to turn the match in her favour in front of a deflated Centre Court crowd.

It was 28th-time lucky for Elina Svitolina as she finally managed to get a grip on her nerves to become the first Ukrainian woman to reach the singles semi-finals of a Grand Slam, with a 7-5 6-4 win over Karolina Muchova on Tuesday. Svitolina has long been expected to join the challenge for the biggest prizes in tennis but until Tuesday, all those attempts had fallen well short.