Defending champion Maria Sharapova yesterday rediscovered her ruthless streak to battle into the Wimbledon semi-finals and a clash with American Venus Williams that many observers feel will be the match of the Championships.
Do not confuse her singleminded determination with the surliness of a teenager. In any case, the Russian did manage to burst into a radiant smile after the job was done and then Sharapova said she believed she had her mental toughness to thank for getting past a gutsy challenge from Russian compatriot Nadia Petrova 7-6, 6-3.
The 18-year-old had found herself up against it early in the first set but fought back to squeeze through a tight tie-break then grab the crucial second set advantage.
Sharapova, who is yet to drop a set in this year's tournament, said: "Mentally I'm still really, really tough.
"I've learnt from situations in the past year so when I'm down or in a close match, I feel like I'm still in it.
"When I play a lot of girls when it's 4-4 on serve I feel I'm mentally tougher out there, and I can mentally play two more games to finish off the set."
Sharapova must have expected a stern test from Petrova, the No 8 seed who had reached the quarterfinals in the French Open earlier this month.
But she may have been surprised by her opponent's superb start in which she consistently found lines with her forehand and served so well she dropped just four points in her first four service games.
The 23-year-old was forced to save the only break point of the set in the ninth game before recovering to ensure the tie-break.
Then Sharapova showed an example of her ability to raise her game at the crucial moments by sailing into a 6-4 lead then hanging on to take the tie-break 8-6.
"I feel I'm a much more experienced player this year," Sharapova added.
"Last year I would have gone for my shots but this year I know I've been in this situation before and I know what to do."
Sharapova gave an example of her new-found maturity by building on her hardfought advantage and breaking Petrova in her first service game of the second set.
While the favourite seldom looked in danger on her own serve, her opponent also admirably refused to wilt, serving out well then creating her first break point of the match when Sharapova was serving for it at 5-4.
This time Sharapova could count herself highly fortunate not be broken back with a big forehand hitting the top of the net before trickling over.
A second consecutive lucky net cord gave Sharapova break point and she made no mistake to wrap up an absorbing match.
Afterwards Sharapova said she was beginning to cope with the different expectations of coming back to the tournament as No 2 seed and defending champion.
Last year Sharapova was given only an outside chance of upsetting the odds before pulling off her extraordinary final win over Serena Williams. This year she faces the older, taller and significantly more powerful sister Venus - who has twice won at Wimbledon.
Sharapova added: "Last year it was a different situation because I was just glad to get to the second week - it was new and exciting.
"When you get to a semifinal of a Grand Slam for the first time the feeling is overwhelming. Now I feel like I'm being consistent."
The American interest - at one stage seemingly being over-run by the Russian invasion of tennis - was maintained by Williams' progression to the last four to join Lindsay Davenport in the semi-finals.
Also in action on Thursday is strongly-built but nevertheless genteel Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo - who should have cracked it long ago.
Davenport, 29, the champion from 1999 who considered retirement last year, is close to completing a remarkable renaissance after outblasting US Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6,6-2 to set up a last-four clash with Mauresmo.
The classic serve and volley of Mauresmo, Australian beaten finalist the same year Davenport took the crown at Wimbledon, was too much for another Russian Anastasia Myskina.
"I really decided to put the pressure on her right from the first game," said Mauresmo, "I was much more comfortable on the court and really enjoying the game. The way the courts are you really have to mix it up and I'm very satisfied I was able to choose the right shots to go in for."
Davenport's victory had hardly ignited the cheers on Court One when they were joined by those for Williams' 6-0, 7-6 destruction of Mary Pierce on Centre Court.