By Bill Scott, DPA
London : French Open finalist Ana Ivanovic staged an inspired recovery on a dry day at Wimbledon, fighting back from 1-5 down in the final set to overhaul Nicole Vaidisova 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 Thursday.
The battling victory for the Serb sixth seed put the 19-year-old into her second straight Grand Slam semi-final.
Czech Vaidisova had the contest well in hand as she served for victory with her massive final-set lead.
But failure to close it out opened the door for the gritty Ivanovic, with the Swiss-based player finally moving into the final four as her nervous opponent double-faulted away her chances.
Ivanovic, who has twice reached the fourth round, will play a Friday semi-final against unseeded Venus Williams, who missed on four chances before finally grinding out a 6-3, 6-4 win over Svetlana Kuznetsova.
"I've had a lot of success here, five finals, which is a lot," said Williams, who improved to 49-7 at the event, which she won in 2000, 2001 and 2005 and where sister Serena also owns two titles.
"Centre Court has just been good to Williams in the last seven years or so. So it's a good thing if your last name is Williams here."
Williams found her way in gusty conditions in the first set against former US Open winner Kuznetsova, but was blown off course in the second.
The American went up a break, but lost it, only to gain break Kuznetsova to love for a 4-3 lead.
With that margin in hand, she still had trouble in closing out the win three games later as Kuznetsova saved four match points before finally drilling long to end the 56-minute second set.
"In that last game I played three great points. After that I think I started rushing too much. I didn't take my time and that doesn't work," said Williams.
Williams, ranked 31st after a period of injury and inactivity, overcame 20 unforced errors as she stayed alive in her 11th Wimbledon appearance.
The pair are now level at 3-3 in their series with Kuznetsova boasting two wins over Williams earlier in the season.
"I was able to cut back on my errors today, that helped me a lot," said Williams. "My return is very, very solid.
"I'm putting a lot of pressure on opponents' service games. With my serve such a weapon for me, it really helped."
In a marathon men's clash, second seed Rafael Nadal recovered from two sets to love down for only the third time in his career as he reached the quarterfinals 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 over Mikhail Youzhny.
The Russian, a US Open semi-finalist who started off on a tear, was slowed by back pain and received treatment on court as Nadal slowly closed the gap.
The three-time French Open champion managed the relatively quick victory in just over three hours a day after concluding a rain-hit marathon third-rounder which first began last Saturday as he finally beat Swede Robin Soderling Wednesday.
Nadal lost the 2006 final to Roger Federer. The five-set victory over Youzhny was his second in a row at the event and improved his record at Wimbledon to 13-3.
Friday the Spaniard will face Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych, who put out Swedish veteran Jonas Bjorkman 6-4, 6-0, 6-7 (6-8), 6-0.
In a delayed fourth round contest, former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis, seeded tenth, upset Russian sixth seed Nikolay Davydenko 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-5), 6-3.