Serena Williams claims she is free of the nerves that have prevented her winning a 22nd grand slam title after the American demolished Elena Vesnina to reach her ninth Wimbledon final.
Williams inflicted the fastest thrashing in a Wimbledon singles semi-final since official records began as she swept past Vesnina 6-2 6-0 in a time officially confirmed at 48 minutes and 34 seconds.
It beats the All England Club’s previous record, when her sister Venus took 51 minutes to hammer Dinara Safina in 2009, and means Serena will face Germany’s Angelique Kerber in tomorrow’s showpiece.
Kerber instigated the second of three shock defeats against the American at the Australian Open final this year, coming between Roberta Vinci’s stunning US Open semi-final win in September and Garbine Muguruza’s surprise French Open victory in June.
All three denied Williams equalling Steffi Graf’s Open era record 22 major triumphs, but the world No 1 has suggested she is now rid of any anxiety that may have blocked her making history.
“I feel good. I felt great in other tournaments as well, but I feel a little different,” Williams said.
“I just feel more relaxed and more at peace than I may have been in the past.
“Sometimes when you are fighting, sometimes you want something so bad, it can hinder you a little bit.
“Now I’m just a little bit more calm. I think confidence brews peace and calm in champions. I think that’s how I feel.”
Williams last year issued a self-imposed ban on speaking about the calendar grand slam, which was eventually spoiled by Vinci, and she gave similarly short shrift to questions about her tieing with Graf.
“I don’t know. My goal has never been 22,” Williams said. “I don’t talk about that anymore.”
Kerber, who ended hopes of an all-Williams final by beating Venus 6-4 6-4 in the second match on Centre Court, will offer a far sterner test and she also has belief, after her brilliant performance in Melbourne.
Williams delivered almost twice as many winners as her opponent that day, but it was the German’s consistency that proved decisive, as she hit just 13 unforced errors across all three sets.
“I made a lot of errors. She made little to no unforced errors,” Williams said.
“I felt like I could have played better. I felt like she played great. She came out swinging, ready to win. She was fearless. That’s something I learned.
“When I go into a final, I too need to be fearless like she was. It was inspiring afterwards to realise there’s a lot of things that I need to improve on.”
Even at her resilient and determined best, however, it is hard to see Kerber containing Williams in this sort of form.
The six-time Wimbledon champion lost one point on her first serve in the whole match against Vesnina, produced 10 aces and fired a total of 22 winners.
Her fastest serve sailed past the Russian at 123 miles per hour, 11 mph faster than Novak Djokovic’s most recent average against Sam Querrey.
John McEnroe, commentating for the BBC, said: “Serena’s practice session this morning was harder than that match.”
Williams was more diplomatic, saying: “It wasn’t anything that was super easy. The scoreline just reflected me doing what I know I can do.”
Vesnina was playing her first grand slam semi-final, but the world No 50 was simply outpowered and outclassed.
She occasionally kept pace in the rallies and tried everything to turn the tide, rushing to the net, drop-shots and once even looking up to the sky in hope of some divine intervention. Williams, however, always found an answer as a crisp forehand volley finally brought her victory, and Vesnina’s humiliation, to an end.
British Heather Watson and Finnish partner Henri Kontinen stunned defending champions Leander Paes and Martina Hingis to reach the quarter-finals of the mixed doubles.
Bizarrely, it was the first match Watson and Kontinen had played in the tournament after receiving walkovers in both the first two rounds.
Paes and Hingis are doubles royalty having won four mixed doubles slam titles together and a combined 35 doubles crowns at the four majors.
Watson and Kontinen, meanwhile, were playing in their first match together but came from a set down to win 3-6 6-3 6-2.
Watson said: “We wanted to play together at Roland Garros but we didn’t get the chance. We were quite lucky and got a couple of walkovers. I really enjoyed our first match out there.”
Britain’s Gabi Taylor was forced to retire through illness during her quarter-final against Kayla Day in the girls’ singles.