BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are set to renew their long and not-so-friendly rivalry in the semifinals at the Brisbane International, a key warm-up tournament for the Australian Open.
The pair played back-to-back quarterfinals on center court Thursday, with the third-seeded Sharapova beating 2012 Brisbane champion Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. She dropped three service games in the first set and another to open the second before finding her range and staging her comeback against the No. 30-ranked Kanepi.
The top-ranked Williams, the defending champion, was next on court and didn't lose a point on serve in the first set en route to a 6-3, 6-3 win over ninth-seeded Diminika Cibulkova of Slovakia.
Williams has a 14-2 record and 13-match winning streak against Sharapova dating back to the 2005 Australian Open semifinals, beating the Russian most recently in last year's French Open final.
Any friendship the pair had at that stage soured when they traded personal barbs relating to their romantic relationships ahead of Wimbledon, where Sharapova made an early exit. Sharapova only played one match after that in 2013 and spent the latter months of the season recovering from a right shoulder problem.
Williams, meanwhile, had a spectacular year, winning 78 of her 82 matches and capturing 11 titles, including two majors.
As far as any grudges go, Williams said Thursday: "It's very difficult I think for anyone to be best buddies when you're so competitive."
Sharapova didn't back away from the comments she made about Williams at Wimbledon in a New York Times profile last month, giving the impression that the relationship between the pair was still cold. On Thursday, she said she'd used the newspaper interview to "clear the air."
Asked how she'd describe their rivalry now, Sharapova replied: "Well, I think I got to win a few times in order to call it rivalry."
"I haven't had a lot of success against her," she added. "It's the first tournament of the year. I came here wanting to play as many matches as I could and obviously wanting to play the best."
Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka had difficulty closing out her quarterfinal match before beating Stefanie Voegele 6-4, 6-7 (7), 6-1.