They say you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. Apparently, that rule doesn’t apply to Serena Williams.
The world No. 1 overcame 51 unforced errors and powerful German Sabine Lisicki 7-6 (7-4), 1-6, 6-3 on a sun-splashed Wednesday to reach Thursday’s Miami Open semifinals. She will play No. 3 Simona Halep of Romania, who beat Coral Springs’ Sloane Stephens 6-1, 7-5 in the evening quarterfnal.
Williams’ victory — the 700th of her career — avenged a dramatic loss to Lisicki in the fourth round at Wimbledon two years ago, a loss that snapped Williams’ 34-match win streak at the time.
The 700-win milestone was celebrated with a colorful cake on Stadium Court after the match. A day earlier, Andy Murray received a cake for winning his 500th match. At this rate, the tournament may be re-named the Miami Cake Open.
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Williams took a bite of the cake (red velvet and chocolate) and declared it “delicious, but not good for my waistline.”
Lisicki won five more points than Williams in the two-hour match, but Williams clamped down when it mattered most as her older sister, Venus, watched from the stands.
Williams won the first three points of the first-set tiebreaker, which proved critical. Lisicki won the second set with relative ease in 28 minutes. And then Williams turned on that Serena switch, the one that makes her pump her fist, roar and smash the ball even harder than she normally does.
Serving for a 3-0 lead in the final set after breaking Lisicki in the second game, Williams hit an overhead slam at the net that served as a sign that she was determined to go home the winner.
“I know today wasn’t my best day,” Williams said. “I just told myself, ‘I’m not serving the way I normally serve and hitting the way I would normally hit it, so at this point all I can do is just fight and try to give 200 percent instead of 100 percent.”
The last time Williams and Lisicki played, at Wimbledon in 2013, it also went to three sets. Lisicki won that time, 6-2, 1-6, 6-4. The smiley German, who reached the semifinals at Indian Wells (California) two weeks ago, has one of the strongest serves in the women’s game. In fact, she has the fastest-recorded serve in WTA history — 131 mph at the Stanford tournament last year.
“We haven’t played each other a lot, so I’m still working to figure [her game] out,” said Williams, a seven-time champion here.
Lisicki believes the reason she challenges Williams more than most players is her power.
“When we both hit the ball, it flies pretty fast over the net, and that was quite visible [Wednesday],” Lisicki said. “We had some rallies that were just going fast, faster, fastest. Always a good challenge. It was very close, but she took the big points, especially in the first-set tiebreaker. The last set I got one break and couldn’t get it back. That was it. But I’ll take a lot of good things from this match and go forward.”
Williams, meanwhile, was scheduled to play Halep last week in the Indian Wells semis, but withdrew, citing a knee injury. Halep went on to win the title there and is looking forward to facing Williams. Williams is riding a 19-match win streak. The last player to beat her? Halep, in November 2014.
“I won against [Williams] just one match,” Halep said. “I expect a tough match because she’s the best player in the world. She has a lot of experience. I have just to play aggressive like I did [against Stephens] at the beginning the match. I think this is the most important thing to have to the chance against Serena.”
Halep hopes for a boost of energy from South Florida’s Romanian fans, several hundred of whom showed up for her match Wednesday. They brought yellow, red and yellow flags, and chanted “Si-Mo-Na! Si-Mo-Na!’’ as Stephens’ fans chanted “U-S-A!’’
“They are coming everywhere I play, so that's amazing,” Halep said. “It’s really nice to hear your name during the points, between the points.”
On the men’s side, Andy Murray got one step closer to a third title here by advancing to the semifinals. He rallied from a shaky first set to beat 21-year-old Austrian Dominic Thiem 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. He will play No. 9 Tomas Berdych, who beat Juan Monaco 6-3, 6-4 in the late match.
“He made me do a lot of running,” Murray said. “Obviously, I would’ve liked to have started the match a little bit better, but with his game style, if you’re not right on it from the beginning, he’s an extremely tough, tough guy to play against.”
Serena Williams became just the sixth women’s tennis player to reach 700 career wins:
1. Martina Navratilova
2. Chris Evert
3. Steffi Graf
4. Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
5. Lindsay Davenport
6. Serena Williams
Andy Murray (3), Britain, d. Dominic Thiem, Austria, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1; Tomas Berdych (8), Czech Republic, d. Juan Monaco, Argentina, 6-3, 6-4.
John Isner (22), United States, d. Milos Raonic (5), Canada, 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (8-6), 7-5 (7-5).
Serena Williams (1), United States, d. Sabine Lisicki (27), Germany, 7-6 (7-4), 1-6, 6-3; Simona Halep (3), Romania, d. Sloane Stephens, United States, 6-1, 7-5.
John Isner and Sam Querrey, United States, def. Jean-Julien Rojer, Netherlands, and Horia Tecau (4), Romania, 6-3, 6-4; Bob and Mike Bryan (1), United States, def. Kevin Anderson, South Africa, and Jeremy Chardy, France, 6-4, 4-6, 10-6.
Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina (2), Russia, d. Caroline Garcia, France, and Katarina Srebotnik (8), Slovenia, 6-4, 3-6, 10-4; Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka (9), Czech Republic, d. Monica Niculescu, Romania, and Alexandra Panova, Russia, 6-3, 7-5.
1 p.m.: Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP) vs. Andrea Petkovic (GER)
Not Before 3 p.m.: Kei Nishikori (JPN) vs. John Isner (USA)
Marcelo Melo (BRA)/Bruno Soares (BRA) vs. Vasek Pospisil (CAN)/Jack Sock (USA)
7 p.m.: Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. David Ferrer (ESP)
Not Before 9 p.m.: Serena Williams (USA) vs. Simona Halep (ROU)
Not Before 6 p.m.: Bob Bryan (USA)/Mike Bryan (USA) vs. John Isner (USA)/Sam Querrey (USA)