London - Maria Sharapova looks to end 11 years of misery when she tackles
bitter rival Serena Williams for a place in the Wimbledon final on Thursday.
The Russian superstar has collected five Grand Slam titles -- including the
2004 Wimbledon crown -- and built a global brand that makes her the world's
highest paid female athlete.
But the 28-year-old has still been left trailing in Serena's wake and she
hasn't 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.
Serena 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 in the last eight -
extending her winning run at Grand Slams to 26 matches and her 2015 record to
37-1 - Serena 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," said Serena, 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
Sharapova caused one of the great Wimbledon shocks 11 years ago when, aged
just 17, she defeated Serena in the final to claim her first Grand Slam title.
The duo's relationship has remained frosty ever since, occasionally turning
nasty - as it did when they traded barbs about Sharapova dating Williams'
ex-boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov and the American's own relationship with her
French coach Patrick Mouratoglou.
Sharapova is in her fifth Wimbledon semi-final and her first since 2011.
Asked if her lack of success in the Serena match-up would be weighing on her
mind, Sharapova gamely insisted she still relishes the challenge of playing the
"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 number four said.
The other semi-final may end up being overshadowed by Serena v Maria Part
20, but there is still plenty of intrigue in the meeting between Agnieszka Radwanska
and Garbine Muguruza.
Radwanska is in her fourth Grand Slam semi-final and her third at Wimbledon.
The Polish 13th seed reached the Wimbledon final in 2012, losing to Serena,
and she hopes her experience of the latter stages of a major will stand her in
good stead against Spanish 20th seed Muguruza, who will be appearing in the
last four of a Grand Slam for the first time.
Muguruza, 21, is the first Spanish woman to make the Wimbledon semi-finals
since Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in 1997.