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Streaker At Wimbledon

About the only thing that made Maria Sharapova flinch during her Wimbledon quarterfinal was the streaker prancing around on court.

Sharapova lost three of the next four games — coincidence, perhaps? — before finishing off a 6-1, 6-4 victory over No. 7 Elena Dementieva on Tuesday to reach the semifinals at the All England Club for the third straight year.

"I heard the crowd go a little wild, and I looked back and saw the man jumping up and down. It took the crowd a point or two to settle down, but I'm pretty good at keeping my focus. I don't let things like that bother me too much," the 2004 Wimbledon champion said. "Hey, you guys wanted some entertainment during a women's match — you got some."

The fourth-seeded Sharapova faces No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo on Thursday, when No. 2 Kim Clijsters meets No. 3 Justine Henin-Hardenne in an all-Belgian semifinal.

It's only the fifth time in the past 25 years that women seeded 1-4 all reached the Wimbledon semifinals, and this is certainly an impressive quartet: All have been ranked No. 1, and all have won at least one Grand Slam championship, including the past three (Clijsters at the U.S. Open, Mauresmo at the Australian and Henin-Hardenne at the French).

Sharapova is the only semifinalist who already owns a Wimbledon title, though, and the grit that carried her to that triumph was on full display on Centre Court.

Well, for most of the match, anyway.

She saved three of the four break points she faced, but did give away a service game by double-faulting twice to allow what was a 4-0 lead in the second set shrink to 4-2. And it was suddenly 4-3 when Dementieva held at love.

That blip followed the disrobed intruder's interruption, which came just before the fourth game of the second set.

The man did a little jig, followed by a cartwheel, all about 30 feet from where Sharapova turned her back to the display. He eventually was corralled by two security guards brandishing a red blanket.

"It was real bizarre," Sharapova said. "Even more bizarre that it took 10 seconds for security to come out. I didn't really look at the guy, thank God."

Dementieva was startled at first, then snickered.

"I was afraid a little bit because, in the beginning, I didn't understand what happened," she said. "If the crowd likes it, that's OK with me."

Police detained, then released, the latest Centre Court streaker. In 1996, a woman dashed across the most hallowed lawn in tennis before the men's final. In 2002, a man jumped out of the stands when there was a rain delay during the men's final.

"It was quickly apparent that the individual posed no threat to the players or the public," Wimbledon spokesman Johnny Perkins said, "and the incident was dealt with summarily and swiftly."

Sharapova quickly recovered from her lapse, helped when Dementieva missed returns on break points that would have evened the second set at 4-all.

Still, Sharapova's serve and forehand were in much better shape than in the fourth round, when the Russian needed three sets to get past 16th-seeded Flavia Pennetta.

"I felt like that match wasn't my best day at the office," Sharapova said. "I was just looking forward to the next match to see how I could recoup, recover."

She did just fine, thank you, with a 14-8 edge in winners, and even hitting a shot left-handed against Dementieva.

"What's so special about her is that she's a fighter," said Dementieva, runner-up at the French Open and U.S. Open in 2004 and 4-0 in major quarterfinals before Tuesday. "It's just amazing how focused she can be, and that she can stay and fight from the first point to the end."

She wasn't quite so complimentary when it came to Sharapova's loud shrieking, which grows louder as matches get tighter.

"It's a little bit too much," Dementieva said. "My personal opinion: I think the umpire should calm her down a little bit."

Asked what her response would be if asked to tone it down, Sharapova said simply: "I won't change a thing."

She'll need to play at least as well against Mauresmo, who won both their previous encounters and is playing serve-and-volley tennis more than the other semifinalists.

Mauresmo reached her fourth Wimbledon semifinal by eliminating 2004 French Open champion Anastasia Myskina 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. The Frenchwoman never has reached the final at the All England Club.

"I don't think I have anything to prove to myself, first of all, or to anybody," said Mauresmo, who went to the net behind nearly half her serves, winning the point 72 percent of the time. "I just want more."

Henin-Hardenne has been to the championship match here, losing to Venus Williams in 2001. She's since won each of the other major tournaments at least once, for a total of five titles, and her 6-4, 6-4 victory over French qualifier Severine Bremond put Henin-Hardenne closer to completing a career Grand Slam.

The Belgian hasn't dropped a set so far; she hadn't allowed an opponent to win more than three games in a set until the 179th-ranked Bremond did it.

"She's wonderful on grass," said Bremond, the first qualifier in the Wimbledon quarterfinals since 1999.

Clijsters was a 6-4, 7-5 winner against No. 27 Li Na, the first Chinese player to reach the quarterfinals at any of the four majors. Clijsters had her problems in the second set, when she double-faulted five times, trailed 5-2 and erased a set point.

Now she faces a far more familiar foe: Clijsters and Henin-Hardenne have played 19 times on tour (Clijsters leads 10-9), and six times at Slams (Henin-Hardenne leads 4-2) — but never at Wimbledon.

"We know each other well enough," Henin-Hardenne said. "The best will win."