BRISBANE: – Maria Sharapova can be a very self-reflective person, but talking about her history against a woman who has all but dominated her and whom she does not get along with off court are not subjects she wants to ponder publicly.
On Thursday after her three-set win over Kaia Kanepi, she was asked a series of questions about Serena Williams, whom she will face in the semis, and she wouldn’t go into depth with any of them. She didn’t want to talk about whether she had made up ground on Williams in 2013 when she pushed her both at Miami and Roland Garros in losses. She didn’t want to talk about whether she has watched tape of her two wins against Williams, which occurred back in 2004 at Wimbledon and Miami. She didn’t want to talk about their 2005 Australian Open semifinal, which is perhaps the best match they contested when Williams tipped her 8-6 in the third set in a contest the Russian had huge chances in.
And she certainly did not want to talk about her off court relationship with Williams, which has largely been a negative throughout their long careers, even though she has done so in the past and recently told the New York Times Chris Clarey that “On the court, I have the utmost respect for her; I really do. [Off the court] it’s different…”
As Sharapova herself said in defending her comments made at Wimbledon when she was went after Williams for allegedly making comment about her in Rolling Stone, ‘everyone’ in the tennis industry knows they don’t get along. They are the two biggest women’s athletes in the world by a long shot, they play the same sport and both have type-A personalities. It would unusual if they were close.
Sharapova wants to book to be closed on her comments regarding Williams’s alleged romantic relationship with her coach Patrick Mouratoglou, even though she won’t apologize for them. Serena has claimed to have apologized to Sharapova for the comments made to Rolling Stone. Sharapova certainly felt like she was aiming at her and her boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov when Serena was quoted as saying “ if she wants to be with the guy with a black heart, go for it.”
Sharapova says that she is an open book when it comes to her feelings and for the most part she is, but she also feels like she is the one making the calls on closing the book when she feels like the issue should be put to bed.
Unfortunately for Sharapova, that not how the media world works, even if she says, as she did on Thursday: “I thought it was really important to clear the air, and I think I said everything I had to say about it.”
She might want the issue to die, but not when she is about to face Serena in another match, and not when the bone of contention was over and her rival’s respective romantic relationships. These type of disputes don’t settle easily.
Are they capable of being cordial to each other? Perhaps on occasion. Can they ever be BFFs? No.
“It’s very difficult I think for anyone to be best buddies when you’re so competitive,” Serena said. “But I don’t have a problem with anyone. I get along with everyone. I have respect for people not only on the court but as well as off the court. I don’t have any problem when it comes to anything like that. I don’t take jabs or anything. I am who I am and I don’t hide anything. I’m totally fine.”
Within their so-called rivalry, she is more than fine, owning a 14-2 edge over Sharapova. They have played one classic before in Australia, in the 2005 Australian Open semis, when coming off two losses to Sharapova in 2004, Serena fought off three match points down 5-4 in the third set and took the contest 2-6 7-5 8-6. She eventually went on to win the title.
Sharapova has no good recall of the match, or at least that’s what she said on Thursday, but Serena did:
“I remember a forehand inside out. That’s all I remember. I was down match point and I hit this winner and I didn’t even blink. I hit the a winner and walked right to the other side and was ready for the next return as if it was just a 30‑15 point. It was pretty amazing.”
Yes it was and she hasn’t lost to Sharapova since then, winning their next 12 matches. Even though four-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova is dangerous to anyone on any given day, she has always claimed that Williams brings her A-plus game again her. Time and time again, that game has proven better than what Sharapova brings to the table and unless Williams’ level drops, it is likely that they American will march into the final. In her 6-3, 6-3 win over Dominika Cibulkova on Thursday, Williams looked better than Sharapova did in 4‑6, 6‑3, 6‑2 over Kaia Kanepi.
Sharapova has only contested three matches since Wimbledon due to shoulder injury and while her level was fairly high in her win over the Estonian Kanepi, it was not at a level that she’ll need against Williams, which would be a near perfect one.
“There is no substitute for getting ready for at Grand Slam competing against the best,” Sharapova said. “She’s been on a roll the lost 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.You’re going up against a great champion that’s playing great tennis at the moment. You know that you have to raise your level in order to beat her. That’s the excitement you feel, is you know have you to step up on the line and expect yourself to raise that level.”
Injury of the day
It did not occur in Brisbane but in Perth at the Hopman Cup when former top 10 player Flavia Pennetta’s retired down 4-0 to Eugenie Bouchard in the first set with a right wrist injury, the same body part that she has surgery on in 2012.
“I don’t know. This wrist is crazy. It’s coming, some pain, from nothing,” Pennetta said. “I think it was what I had to do, to try and go on the court and at least I was thinking maybe with some warm up it will get better but it was not like this. “I will have some treatment, some reforming and try to, maybe don’t play for one or two days to help because I think it’s more something, inflammation, it’s not like a tear or ligament, I mean I had all my ligament already operated, so hope it’s nothing worse.”
Development of the Day
Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou is not only pleased with Williams play but that of Jeremy Chardy who has reached the ATP quarters in Brisbane. Another player he has been working with, Peng Shuai, has made progress at the tournament in Shenzhen.
What to Watch for, Friday
Roger Federer is playing doubles with Nicolas Mahut in Brisbane and they took down Grigor Dimitrov and Jeremy Chardy 11-9 in a match tiebreak to reach the semis. Federer has clear shot at a singles & doubles double in Brisbane. If he manages the feat, it would be the first time that the Swiss has won singles and doubles titles at the same tournament since 2005 Halle when he partnered with Yves Allegro.