London: Maria Sharapova is preparing to fight fire with fire on Thursday as she attempts to combat the raw power of German wildcard Sabine Lisicki in a semi-final battle of the big-hitters.
Russian fifth seed Sharapova has been installed as the bookmakers favourite to win her second Wimbledon title after an impressive march to the last four where she has not yet dropped a set in five matches.
The 2004 champion was in scintillating form in the quarter-finals, where her booming groundstrokes reduced 24th seed Dominika Cibulkova to rubble in a 6-1, 6-1 on Centre Court.
But Sharapova faces potentially the most challenging opponent left in the women's tournament in the shape of Lisicki, the 21-year-old who has regularly been clocking serves at around 120 miles per hour.
"A player that's playing with so much confidence and really great grass court tennis is always very dangerous," Sharapova said, agreeing with a suggestion that the semi-final could be decided by power rather than finesse.
"I'm sure it will be powerful. She hits very hard. She has probably one of the hardest serves on the tour, and that's very beneficial.
"She's used that very well on the grass. So that will be challenging."
Lisicki's serve already accounted for the third seeded French Open champion Li Na in the second round, who described Lisicki's serve as unplayable.
"From the first point until the end of the match, every serve was like 117mph. It's impossible for women," Li said.
Lisicki, who downed French ninth seed Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 6-1 to become only the second wildcard in Wimbledon history to reach the last four, is also unburdened by expectation.
"Maria's a great champion and has won Grand Slams. She has been playing really well recently and she's been at this stage before," Lisicki said.
"But I have absolutely nothing to lose. I just enjoy myself out there on the court so much."
Lisicki, whose career went into a tailspin when an ankle injury left her barely able to walk, is determined to savour every moment of her career while she can.
She had already been a Wimbledon quarter-finalist in 2009 before disaster struck in 2010 when an ankle injury picked up in Miami sidelined her for five months and sent her ranking plummeting to 218.
"I'm more experienced and calmer. Two years ago it was different. I was more nervous. I couldn't sleep so good," said the German.
"But now it's different. After the injury, I know how fast it can be gone. I just try to enjoy every minute that I'm on the court."
The other side of the women's draw sees Czech eighth seed Petra Kvitova face fourth seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, in a repeat of last year's third round meeting won by Kvitova 7-5, 6-0.
Azarenka advanced to a Grand Slam semi-final for the first time after defeating Tamira Paszek 6-3, 6-1 on Tuesday.
Azarenka, who also lost to Kvitova in the final of the Madrid Masters last month, insisted that her recent record would count for nothing on Thursday.
"It's going to be a different story," she said. "It's a completely different game even from we played last year here. It's going to be completely different game, different stage of the tournament."
Kvitova secured a second successive Wimbledon semi-final spot with a 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2 win over Bulgaria's Tsvetana Pironkova.
Kvitova could become the first left-hander to win the women's title since Martina Navratilova in 1990.
"It's great to be back in the semi-final and now I have more experience of the Centre Court," said Kvitova, who is bidding to emulate Jana Novotna, the last Czech to win the the Venus Rosewater Dish in 1998.