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Serena faces tough Azarenka in Wimbledon semi

Serena Williams prepares to receive during her third

Serena Williams prepares to receive during her third round women's doubles match with Venus Williams against Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Sania Mirza at the 2012 Wimbledon Championships. (July 4, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

WIMBLEDON, England -- Everyone seems to have a label here. They've decided Serena Williams is the "Warrior Queen,'' and her opponent in this country with an imperial history, Victoria Azarenka, naturally is being called "Queen Victoria.''

These ladies of the court, and of tennis royalty, face off Thursday in what is the more appealing of the women's semifinals. Williams at 30 is trying to regain a title she won four times previously. Azarenka, the 22-year-old from Belarus, is attempting to add another major championship to this year's Australian Open.

In the other semi, Angelique Kerber of Germany, a surprise semifinalist in the U.S. Open last year, is facing Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, who practically unnoticed has played her way to No. 3 in the WTA rankings.

Williams has defeated Azarenka, "Vika" as she's known on the circuit, five straight times, including at Wimbledon in 2009 and at Madrid this year, and seven of eight overall.

But Azarenka, after Maria Sharapova's fourth-round loss, has regained the No. 1 ranking, at least temporarily, and draws high praise from Serena.

"She's playing unbelievable,'' Williams said of Azarenka, the only semifinalist not to have dropped a set in five matches.

"Already having a Grand Slam under her belt is really great. She's having a better year than I have. I almost feel she has an advantage I guess.''

Azarenka counters with her own accolades. "She's a great fighter,'' Azarenka said of Williams, a winner of 13 Slams. "No matter what the score she will go for her shots. She has a huge serve, which we all know.

"She's a great champion. It's going to be a tough match, but that is kind of what you expect in the semifinals.''

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