Briton Johanna Konta’s hopes of a first Wimbledon final ended with a straight-set semi-final defeat by five-time champion Venus Williams.
The 37-year-old American 10th seed played superbly to win 6-4 6-2 on Centre Court and set up a final against Spain’s Garbine Muguruza.
Sixth seed Konta, 26, had hoped to become the first British woman in a Wimbledon singles final since 1977.
“It was very difficult for me to get a good foothold in the match,” she said.
“The few opportunities that I did get, she did incredibly well to take them away from me.
“I don’t think I did too much wrong out there. I think it was all credit to her.”
Konta will at least break into the world’s top five for the first time in the next rankings.
Virginia Wade, the last British woman to win the title 40 years ago, said: “Maybe 41 years will be her number.
“It was sad she couldn’t come through in an anniversary year, and it’s so long since we had a winner, but I think next year she could make it, or make it to the final and progress that little bit more.”
Williams is the oldest Grand Slam singles finalist since Martina Navratilova finished runner-up at Wimbledon in 1994.
The American, through to her ninth final, won her first Wimbledon title in 2000 and the most recent of her seven major victories came on Centre Court in 2008.
“I’ve played a lot of finals here,” Williams told BBC Sport. “One more win will be amazing. It won’t be a given but I’ll give it my all.”
She will next face Muguruza, the 14th seed, who thrashed unseeded Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova 6-1 6-1 in just 64 minutes to advance to her second Wimbledon final.
The Spaniard finished runner-up to Serena Williams in 2015, before beating the American to win the French Open in 2016.
‘The crowd were very nice to me’
In a tight contest between two of the best servers in the game, Williams worked her way to victory with smarter serving and more effective returns.
The American, playing her 20th Wimbledon, showed all her experience to edge out Konta and end British hopes in this year’s singles events.
It was Konta under the greater early pressure at 30-30 or deuce in her opening four service games, with Williams standing inside the baseline to attack the second serve, but the Briton calmly played her way out of trouble.
Konta then earned the first two break points of the match at 4-4 but it brought the best out of Williams, who produced a backhand winner, a 106mph second serve and a forehand winner.
The former world number one would carry that momentum through the rest of the match, finding big second serves and aiming at the body to restrict Konta to just 13 points on the return as her forehand in particular leaked errors.
Konta fell 0-40 down to offer up three set points in game 10, firing a backhand long on the second, and Williams got the decisive break at 3-1 in the second.
There was no chink of light on the Williams serve for the home crowd on Centre Court to get excited about, and Konta could only watch as the American arrowed a forehand past her down the line on her third match point.
“The crowd were very nice to me,” added Williams. “The crowd were so fair, I know they love Jo. I think Jo handled the pressure.
“No point was easy. I tried to climb on top and get another point.”
Martina Navratilova, nine-time Wimbledon champion: “Venus served well. The second serve on big points really handcuffed Konta – she didn’t know what was coming her way. And Konta only won 33% of points on her second serve, so Venus was really attacking the second serve. I thought the difference would be return of serve and that’s what did it.”
Tracy Austin, former world number one: “It was the 106mph second serve that saved a break point that really turned the first set around. Johanna really started to miscue on that forehand return early in the first set and Venus picked up on that, started to target that forehand in some of the longer rallies.”
Muguruza ‘stepped up on the court super-confident’
Muguruza strode on to Centre Court with heavy strapping on her left thigh, but appeared anything but restricted as she reeled off the first five games in 25 minutes.
Rybarikova, ranked 87th, went into the match with an 18-1 record on grass this season but the 28-year-old appeared nervous in her first Grand Slam semi-final.
A sympathetic round of applause greeted her first game at 5-1 down.
Rybarikova won just 10 points on serve in the entire set as Muguruza attacked off the return and was confident enough to dominate from the net.
When Muguruza crushed a backhand winner off a 79mph second serve to lead 3-0 with a double break in the second set, Rybarikova was reeling.
There was more appreciation from the crowd when Rybarikova held on in a long service game to get on the scoreboard for just a second time, but Muruguza was in ruthless mood and confidently served out the match.
“I think I played very well, for sure,” said the Spaniard.
“It was a tricky match, she is a very talented player. She was playing very good during the tournament and I think today I stepped up on the court super-confident, and everything went well.”
Tracy Austin, former world number one: “Muguruza was in the zone. That was one of the matches you train all your life for, and for it to happen in the semi-final of Wimbledon – she was in a dream. Rybarikova was just rushed the whole time. But complete focus and a great game plan from Muguruza.”