WIMBLEDON, England Pow! A 104 mph ace. Crack! A 113 mph ace. Wham! A 126 mph ace, the fastest serve ever hit by a woman at Wimbledon.
When Serena Williams ends games that way, as she did during a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Tatiana Golovin on Tuesday, it's easy to understand why she's closing in on becoming just the third woman in 35 years to win three straight titles at the All England Club.
And it's easy to dismiss recent chatter about whether Williams can be No. 1 again. Whether she can dominate despite being too rusty or too consumed by acting and fashion designing, or too distracted by the shooting death of her half-sister last year.
Doubts tend to dissipate when watching her drop a total of 15 games through four matches, albeit without facing a seeded player. Her 12 aces Tuesday, including trios in three games, gave her 33 for the tournament, with only two double-faults.
''I'm feeling like Pete Sampras, for sure,'' she said, smiling at her words. ''It's important for me to always have that confidence in myself and know that I can win this tournament if I put my mind to it.''
Next comes a big test, though: a quarterfinal Wednesday against Jennifer Capriati, who beat No. 10 Nadia Petrova 6-4, 6-4. The Williams-Capriati winner will face No. 4 Amelie Mauresmo or No. 9 Paola Suarez in the semifinals.
The other semifinal is set: 1999 champion Lindsay Davenport vs. No. 13 Maria Sharapova, players at opposite ends of their careers.
Davenport, 28, beat Karolina Sprem 6-2, 6-2, then said there's ''probably a good chance'' this is her last Wimbledon. The Siberian-born, Florida-raised Sharapova, 17, got past No. 11 Ai Sugiyama 5-7, 7-5, 6-1 to become the tournament's youngest semifinalist since 1997.
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