Serena Williams believes her mixed doubles partnership with Andy Murray helped her reach the Wimbledon final and put her on the verge of a record-equalling 24th grand slam singles title.
The seven-time champion overpowered unseeded Barbora Strycova 6-1 6-2 in 59 punishing minutes on Centre Court.
The serve was nearly flawless and the groundstrokes as brutal as ever, but her occasional forays to the net – a feature of her doubles matches with Murray – also paid off handsomely.
Williams admitted: “I promise you, when I hit a volley I was like, ‘would I have made that if I didn’t play doubles’? I don’t think so.
“I kept telling you guys I thought the doubles would help me. I really think it did. I don’t attack the net that much. I tried to and I want to.
“I know when I play doubles here with Venus, it definitely helps my singles game. I was really keen to play mixed here.
“I really feel like it helped me, not just for today and this event, but hopefully it will help me in the future.”
The quest to equal Margaret Court’s record tally of major wins seemed to weigh heavily on Williams in her defeats in last year’s Wimbledon and US Open finals.
However, she insisted the magic number 24 will no longer be playing on her mind when she faces Simona Halep in Saturday’s final.
“I thought about it this morning,” she added. “I actually didn’t think about it since because it’s really not about 24, or 23, or 25.
“It’s really just about going out there and giving my best effort. No matter what I do, I will always have had a great career.
“I just kind of let it go this morning. I feel really calm about it.
Williams’ defeat in last year’s final, to Angelique Kerber, came just 10 months after the birth of daughter Olympia and the subsequent complications she suffered.
She recalled: “I just remember I was tired and Angie played unbelievable. I actually was sad, but I was also proud of myself. There was nothing I could do in that match. I did everything I could. Physically I just wasn’t there.
“I remember after that I just trained and trained and trained to get physically more fit. So I’m definitely at a different place.”
Czech Strycova had knocked out Johanna Konta to become, at 33, the oldest female first-time grand slam semi-finalist.
She said: “I thought today that was her best match of all here. She was serving amazing. She was playing very deep, so I really couldn’t play what I wanted to do.
“If she plays like that in the final it’s going to be very hard for Simona. But Simona has also her weapons. Every day is different but today she was playing amazing.”