Serena v Sharapova in 20th career episode

It’s the 20th instalment of tennis’s greatest non-rivalry and this time Maria Sharapova isn’t talking up her chances.

A loser in the past 16 episodes stretching back more than a decade, Sharapova has learnt not to rattle Serena Williams’ cage ahead of Thursday’s marquee Wimbledon semi-final.

Williams and Sharapova will clash at the All England Club for the first time in five years – and only the second time since the Russian stunned the tennis world in the 2004 title match to become the third-youngest women’s champion in history.

Just 17 back then, Sharapova hasn’t beaten Williams since despite snaring another four grand slam crowns in the meantime.

In the Olympics final in 2012, on the very same centre court on which they will meet on Thursday, Sharapova won one solitary game in a humbling 6-0 6-1 experience.

“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,” Sharapova said after dropping her first set of the championships in a 6-3 6-7 (3-7) 6-2 quarter-final victory over unseeded American Coco Vandeweghe.

Sharapova at least knows what to expect from the world No.1.

“Definitely no secrets between each other’s games,” said the fourth seed.

Not surprisingly, Williams said she relished facing Sharapova.

“I love playing Maria. I think she brings out the best in me. I think I bring out the best in her,” the 33-year-old said after her 3-6 6-2 6-3 quarter-final success over another old rival, former world No.1 and dual Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka.

“I thought we had a wonderful final in Australia. It was very entertaining. She played really well.”

And lost. Yet again.

Amping up the mind games even further, Williams, already a 20-times major winner, said she was free-rolling, playing with the house’s money.

“I don’t feel like I have any pressure going into this match. We both actually lost early last year,” she said.

“We both are kind of enjoying this moment and one of us will be in the final.

“I have nothing to lose. If I win, it’s great. If I lose, I did pretty well.

“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. I think it’s actually making me play better, which is crazy.”

While Williams and Sharapova possess 25 grand slam singles trophies between them, Thursday’s other semi-final features a pair without any.

Polish 13th seed Agnieszka Radwanska, runner-up to Williams in 2012, will meet 21-year-old Spanish talent Garbine Muguruza.

Radwanska defeated American 21st seed Madison Keys 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 6-3 in her quarter-final and will be making her fourth grand slam last-four appearance – and her third at Wimbledon.

“It cannot be any better. I’m just so happy,” Radwanska said.

Muguruza beat Swiss 15th seed Timea Bacsinszky 7-5 6-3 to become the first Spanish woman to make the Wimbledon semi-finals since Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in 1997.


1-SERENA WILLIAMS (USA) leads 4-MARIA SHARAPOVA (RUS) 17-3 (5-1 in grand slams)

2015 Australian Open, hard, F, Williams 6-3 7-6

2013 French Open, clay, F, Williams 6-4 6-4

2010 Wimbledon, grass, R16, Williams 7-6 6-4

2007 Australian Open, hard, F, Williams 6-1 6-2

2005 Australian Open, hard, SF, Williams 2-6 7-5 8-6

2004 Wimbledon, grass, F, Sharapova 6-1 6-4


Age: 33

Ranking: 1

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US69,676,428 ($A92.93 million)

Career titles: 67

Grand slam titles: 20 (Australian Open 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009-10, 2015; French Open 2002, 2013, 2015; Wimbledon 2002-03, 2009-10, 2012; US Open 1999, 2002, 2008, 2012-2014)

Wimbledon win-loss record: 77-10

Best Wimbledon performances: champion 2002-03, 2009-10, 2012


Age: 28

Ranking: 4

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US35,071,334 ($A46.78 million)

Career titles: 35

Grand slam titles: 5 (Australian Open 2008; French Open 2012, 2014; Wimbledon 2004; US Open 2006)

Wimbledon win-loss record: 46-11

Best Wimbledon performance: champion 2004


Radwanska 1-0 in grand slams

2014 Australian Open, hard, R16, Radwanska 6-1 6-3


Age: 26

Ranking: 13

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US17,850,326 ($A23.81 million)

Career titles: 14

Grand slam titles: 0

Wimbledon win-loss record: 36-9

Best Wimbledon performance: finalist 2012


Age: 21

Ranking: 20

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US2,543,146 ($A3.39 million)

Career titles: 1

Grand slam titles: 0

Wimbledon win-loss record: 6-2

Best Wimbledon performances: semi-finalist 2015

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