Jul 09, 2015

    Sharapova brings out best in me: Williams


    SERENA Williams fired a warning to Maria Sharapova ahead of their Wimbledon semi-final clash, as the world No. 1 admitted that she saves her best performances for clashes with her fiercest rival.

    Williams and Sharapova meet today in the latest instalment of a bitter rivalry that took root on Centre Court in 2004, and still festers more than a decade later.

    Sharapova caused one of the great Wimbledon shocks 11 years ago when, aged just 17, she defeated Williams in the final to claim her first Grand Slam title.

    While the Russian has collected five Grand Slam titles and built a global brand that makes her the world's highest-paid female athlete, Sharapova has still been left trailing in the American's wake and hasn't come out on top since 2004.

    Williams, 33, has a 17-2 lead in their head-to-head record, winning their last 16 meetings and depriving Sharapova of three major titles: in the 2007 and 2015 Australian Open finals and the 2013 French Open final.

    The American has also won all four of her semi-final meetings with Sharapova, defeated the Russian in their previous Wimbledon clash in the last 16 in 2010 and routed her in the 2012 Olympic final at the All England Club.

    After battling back to defeat Victoria Azarenka 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the last eight - extending her winning run at Grand Slams to 26 matches and her record this year to 37-1 - Williams can't wait to take on Sharapova again.

    "I love playing Maria. I think she brings out the best in me. I thought we had a wonderful final in Australia. It was very entertaining," said the American, who remains on course to hold all four major titles at once and is in the hunt to clinch the first calendar Grand Slam since 1988.

    "For me, I don't feel like I have any pressure going into this match.

    "It's just totally different for me. I don't have anything to prove. I won all the Grand Slams, multiple times. Now it's just I'm here just to enjoy it. It's actually making me play better, which is crazy."

    Asked if her lack of success in the Williams match-up would be weighing on her mind, Sharapova gamely insisted she still relishes the challenge of playing the American. "I think it's always a new match. I haven't had great success against her. I would love to change that around."