2014 starts off well enough for world number one Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova as they seek to continues their rivalry on the court in the semi-finals of the Brisbane International today.
Russian, Sharapova, 26, will use the match to continue her recovery from a shoulder injury, which brought her 2013 season to an abrupt end in August.
The pair have made the headlines in recent times not only for competition sake but also on personal terms, after the 17-time Grand Slam champion was quoted by Rolling Stone magazine to have accused an unidentified top-five player- thought to be Sharapova- for being boring in her interviews and questioned her character of her boyfriend.
Sharapova, who is dating men’s number 23 Grigor Dimitrov, responded at a Wimbledon news conference by telling Williamsto rather talk about her own reported relationship with French coach Patrick Mouratoglou.
In a recent interview in Florida, the four-time Grand Slam winner said to “clear the air” she respected Williams on the court, but hinted it was “different” outside the sport.
And back to the court, Sharappova will be looking to improve on his recent performance against the 32-year-old American, having taken just one set in their past nine meetings since 2004 without a win and trails 14-2 in their career head-to-head.
She wouldn’t want to dwell too long on her relationship with Williams after reaching the semi-finals of the Brisbane International with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 defeat of Kaia Kanepi.
”Well, I think I got to win a few times in order to call it rivalry,” Sharapova quipped on Thursday.
”I know I’ve tried and I didn’t succeed in the last many times that I’ve played her, but I’m setting up an opportunity to go out there and try to change that, and I’m going to try to do that,” added the world No.4, who had trailed Kanepi by a set and a service break in what – due to a shoulder injury – was just her second official match since August.
”I haven’t had a lot of success against her in the past. It’s the first tournament of the year. I came here wanting to play as many matches as I could and obviously wanting to play the best.
”There is no substitute for getting ready for a grand slam and competing against the best. She’s been on a roll the last couple of years with her level and the way that she’s been able to play. I’ve competed against her a few times last year; didn’t work.
”You always hope that you can go out and give yourself a chance to do better next time.”
Asked this week whether the ill-feeling lingers, Williams, who saw off ninth seed Dominika Cibulkova 6-3, 6-3 in the quarter-finals, said: ”I don’t know. You would have to ask her. I don’t know why she said some things about me. I don’t know. I guess she was hurt.
”I’m just here to play tennis, and whatever her or anyone else thinks, at the end of the day I’m a tennis player and I don’t harbour any resentful feelings, ‘cos life’s too short and it’s an ungodly way to do things. You hear about people forgiving and stuff like that, so that’s all I do.”
In the tournament’s other semi-final, Belarusian Victoria Azarenka wll be up against Serbia’s Jelena jankovic for a place in the final.
Second seed Azarenka overcame Switzerland’s Stefanie Vogele 6-4, 6-7 (7-9), 6-1, while fourth seed Jankovic recovered from the loss of a first-set tie-break to beat germany’s Angelique Kerber 6-7 (6-8), 6-3, 6-1.
In the men’s draw, home favourite Lleyton Hewit beat fifth seed Feliciano Lopez 7-5, 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals.