Maria Sharapova out to repeat 2004 win against Serena Williams: ‘It will be an incredible moment for me’

Williams and Sharapova meet on Thursday in the latest instalment of a bitter rivalry that took root in 2004 when Sharapova caused one of the great Wimbledon shocks when, at age 17, she defeated Williams in the final.

Russia's Maria Sharapova returns to US player Coco Vandeweghe during their women's quarter-finals match on Day 8 of the 2015 Wimbledon Championships at the All England Club, southwest London, on July 7, 2015. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS
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London // Serena Williams fired a warning to Maria Sharapova ahead of their Wimbledon semi-final clash as the world No 1 said she saves her best performances for clashes with her fiercest rival.

Williams and Sharapova meet on Thursday 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, at age 17, she defeated Williams in the final to claim her first grand slam title.

The duo’s relationship has remained frosty and has occasionally turned nasty, as it did when they traded barbs about Sharapova dating Williams’s ex-boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov and the American’s relationship with her French coach Patrick Mouratoglou.

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But, while Sharapova has collected five grand slam titles and built a global brand that makes her the world’s highest-paid female athlete, the 28-year-old Russian has still been left trailing in Williams’s wake and Sharapova has not come out on top since 2004.

The 33-year-old American 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.

Williams 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.

“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 Williams, who remains on course to hold all four major titles at once and is in the hunt to clinch the first 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.”

Sharapova is in her fifth Wimbledon semi-final and her first since 2011, thanks to a hard-fought 6-3, 6-7, 6-2 quarter-final victory over Coco Vandeweghe.

Asked if her lack of success in the Williams match-up would be weighing on her mind, Sharapova responded that 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. That’s how I look at it,” the world No 4 said.

“Definitely no secrets between each other’s games, but it will be an incredible moment for me to step out on Centre Court against her again.

“If you look at grand slam champions, you look at their draws, everyone comes from a few challenges, being down in matches.”

The other semi-final meeting is between Agnieszka Radwanska and Garbine Muguruza.

Radwanska will play in her fourth grand slam tournament semi-final and her third at Wimbledon, while Spanish 20th seed Muguruza will be appearing in the last four of a grand slam event for the first time.

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