Sharapova to serve challenge to Williams

Sharapova to serve challenge to Williams

Maria Sharapova says she’s got groove back ahead of her Australian Open quarter-final showdown with old foe Serena Williams.

The fifth seed moved into the final eight with a hard-fought 7-5-7-5 win over Swiss teenager Belinda Bencic, while Williams barely broke into a sweat with her 6-2 6-1 romp against Russian Margarita Gasparyan in her round-four match.

Sharapova hasn’t tasted grand slam success against world No.1 Williams in her last six attempts and lost last year’s Melbourne Park decider to the 21-times major winner.

But the 28-year-old is hoping some career-best serving form will see her add to her sole victory that came back in the Wimbledon final in 2004.

Sharapova blasted a personal-high 21 aces en route to her win over Bencic; the record haul coming after she delivered 16 in her third-round defeat of Lauren Davis.

Long an Achilles heel rather than a weapon, the Russian said she had worked hard to find an effective service motion due to ongoing shoulder trouble.

“I have gone through many different motions to try to find my groove again and something that would hold up over many matches,” said Sharapova, a four-times finalist and 2008 champion.

“I think I have made a little bit of a change last year in the stance.

“I served quite well and got myself out of trouble with the serve and on a few of those break points.

“I had a good serving performance in the last match as well.”

In an up and down opening set and despite the ace tally, Sharapova was broken four times but managed to keep Bencic in check and break her to take the set.

The second set went with serve until 12th seed Bencic cracked at 5-6, handing her opponent the match.

Sharapova predicted Bencic would be a contender before long.

“These are the players who are going to take our spot, but not just yet,” Sharapova said.

Williams lost her opening serve against world No.58 Gasparyan but didn’t look back after that.

The 34-year-old, who in contrast managed three aces, felt her service games needed work but was otherwise happy with her game.

“I just feel like I’m really confident in my game right now.

“I’m just really looking at me right now, and I feel like if I can just continue to play well, then it could be good.”

Despite her dominance over Sharapova – standing 18-2 in all matches, Williams said she could count on her long-time rival to bring her best.

“She always brings in something new and something special,” Williams said.

“She’s very consistent as well – always consistently winning and training and working hard.”

Quarter-final head-to-head


Williams leads 6-1 at grand slams

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

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

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

2010 Wimbledon, grass, R16, Williams 7-6 (11-9) 6-4

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

2015 Australian Open, hard, F, Williams 6-3 7-6 (7-5)

2015 Wimbledon, grass, SF, Williams 6-2 6-4


Age: 34

Ranking: 1

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US74,083,421 ($A108.15 million)

Career titles: 69

Grand slam titles: 21 (Australian Open 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2105; French Open 2002, 2013, 2015; Wimbledon 2002-03, 2009-10, 2012, 2015; US Open 1999, 2002, 2008, 2012-2014)

Career win-loss record: 741-123

Australian Open win-loss record: 72-9

Best Australian Open results: champion 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015


Age: 28

Ranking: 5

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US36,484,486 ($A53.26 million)

Career titles: 35

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

Career win-loss record: 601-144

Australian Open win-loss record: 52-11

Best Australian Open result: champion 2008

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