Four days into the 2014 WTA season and the Sharapova/Serena rivalry has already been rekindled. The two will clash for the first time since the unfortunate Wimbledon debacle, which saw the two top stars quarrel over alleged comments in a pre-match press conference. The two last met in the finals of the French Open, which Williams won 6-4, 6-4 to advance her lead in the head-to-head record to 14-2.
Serena Williams has been in fantastic form since the start of the Brisbane International, as she earned a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Andrea Petkovic in her first professional match of 2014 and followed it up with a 6-3, 6-3 win over last year’s finalist Dominika Cibulkova. The win was particularly impressive considering Cibulkova came into the torunament in form and defeated both Heather Watson and Kimiko Date-Krumm before succumbing to Williams. The win sets up an intriguing clash against Sharapova in the semi-final stage of the tournament.
When the world no. 1 was asked to weigh in on the semi-final contest, she said: “We just both do the best we can.. I’ve been able to get the better out of some situations & she’s gotten the better of me.”
World no. 4 Maria Sharapova had a difficult quarter-final contest as she was forced into a tough three set battle with Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi that lasted exactly two hours. There was a surprise early on as the Russian dropped the opening set 6-4, and would quickly drop her serve in the first game of the second set. Harnessing her trademark resiliency, Sharapova would break back and jump to a lead soon after, losing only two more games in the entire set. The third set was the most comfortable for the Sharapova as she secured a break in the third game and finished the set 6-2 to reach the final four in Brisbane.
While the 26-year-old appeared comfortable and relaxed in her first round match against Caroline Garcia, this was far from the case in the early stages of her quarter-final contest, where she looked considerably rusty. This was particularly noticeable in her service games, as she commit 3 double faults with a 42% first serve percentage in the opening set as opposed to no double faults and a 85% first serve rate in the third set. Now securing a place in the semi-finals, Sharapova will move up to no. 3 in the rankings on Monday no matter the outcome against Williams.
Sharapova has not defeated Williams in nearly a decade, with her last win over the American coming in 2004, when she picked up consecutive wins in the Wimbledon Championships and in Los Angeles. Since then she has lost to Serena thirteen consecutive times and seven of eight of their last meetings ended in straight sets. Over the years, the Russian has become less competitive against Serena, particularly when Williams is on form as has been the case over the past couple of years. With Sharapova being off the tour since the Cincinnati tournament in August and her shaky performance in the quarter-final today, it is unlikely that this match will be any different.
Prediction: Serena Williams in Straight Sets