JELENA OSTAPENKO samba’d her way into the Wimbledon semi-finals and revealed that her strictly ballroom skills have helped her rise in the tennis world.
The Latvian blitzed Dominika Cibulkova 7-5, 6-4 with a devastating display of ground strokes to reach her first semi-final here.
Ostapenko, 21, who won the French Open in 2017, revealed that she started ballroom dancing at the age of five, even competing in the Latvian National Championships, until at 12 she switched to tennis.
The Latvian, who will face Angelique Kerber in the semi-finals on Thursday, said: “My best dance is probably the samba.
“I’m sure that my dancing has helped my tennis. I quit dancing for some years but now I’m doing it as a hobby. It helps a lot because you have to be very co-ordinated and also the small steps are very useful in tennis.”
The two embrace on No.1 court
Kerber, meanwhile, has serious sights now set on the Championship that she has agonised about for two years since losing to Serena Williams in 2016.
Just how important that revenge mission was vividly apparent as she beat Russian Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 7-5.
Kerber won the first set in just 32 minutes, then took control of the second until Kasatkina produced her fightback. There were five breaks of service and then, at 6-5, just as Kerber looked to be in control, she raised her game.
Kerber said: “She just made me run and run, moved me around and pushed me to the limits.
I have learned a lot, especially from the mental side. That helped me deal with the emotion of having those match points. It’s not easy, you feel your nerves.”
Angelique Kerber on her way to a straight sets win over Daria Kasatkina
For Kasatkina, 21, it was a day to remember. She was escorted on to the Centre Court before play begun so that she might appreciate its unique atmosphere.
She said: “It was amazing. The beautiful corridor that leads to the court, it makes you feel you are a really part of a great event.”
Williams had a mighty scare against Italian Camilia Giorgi as she dropped her first set of the Championships but came through 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
The 36 year old, who had a struggle against the feisty Giorgi, who is ranked 52 in the world, will now face Julia Goerges tomorrow as she bids for her first Grand Slam final since giving birth to daughter Olympia.
Williams said: “I felt good to get through that, it was a tough match. I knew had to serve well because she was so aggressive. But I was so calm. Even when I was down in the first set, I was doing a lot of the right things.
It was less straightforward than normal for Serena Williams on Centre Court
“I have learned the lesson of never giving in, always fighting. That is really important in life, no matter what you are going through – never quit. That’s the biggest lesson I could give my daughter.”
Julia Goerges came through her quarter-final, beating Holland’s Kiki Bertens 3-6, 7-5.
Goerges, who was making her 42nd Grand Slam appearance, had suffered five successive opening-round defeats at the All England Club before this year.
It is the first time two German women have made the semi-finals of a Grand Slam since Steffi Graf and Anke Huber at the 1993 French Open