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Wimbledon SF: Can Sharapova finally end losing streak vs Serena?

tennis Updated: Jul 09, 2015 17:09 IST
Manoj Bhagavatula
Serena Williams

Maria Sharapova will be looking to end 11 years of misery when she tackles Serena Williams for a place in the 2015 Wimbledon final on July 09, 2015. (AFP File Photo)

Top-seeded Serena Williams of the United States will face fourth-seeded Maria Sharapova of Russia for a place in the women's singles final on Thursday, while 13th-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland is up against first-time Grand Slam semifinalist Garbine Muguruza of Spain.

Here's a preview of the action:

Serena Williams vs Maria Sharapova

The good news for Sharapova: This is Wimbledon, the scene of her breakthrough triumph in 2004 when, as a 17-year-old, she upset Williams in straight sets in the final to announce her arrival on the big stage.

Sharapova has been playing as well as she ever has thus far at The Championships. She has dropped just one set, to American Coco Vandeweghe, 6-7(3) in her quarterfinal match. The other ten sets have been pretty routine affairs, going by the scoreboard. She will return to No. 2 on the WTA rankings after Wimbledon.

The Russian has a 10-9 career record in Grand Slam semifinals, as well as seven wins when playing against ruling World number one players.

The bad news: None of that matters when Williams is the one across the net from her. It has been almost 11 years since Sharapova's last victory against Serena, a come-from-behind, three-set win at the WTA World Tour Championships in LA in November 2004.

The Sharapova-Williams rivalry has long ceased to be competitive. Williams leads the head-to-head 17-2. Since that 2004 victory, the Russian has managed to take just three sets off the American, the last of which was in the 2013 Miami Open Masters 1000 final. Sharapova has never beaten Serena when the American has held the number one ranking. Williams' record in Grand Slam semifinals is a staggering 24-3.

Both Sharapova and Williams can pummel their groundstrokes all day long, especially the two-hander, but the key difference between the two is the serve. Williams first delivery is so much more solid and reliable, especially when she's in a spot of bother. Sharapova's first serve is more likely to desert her in key moments, and when it does, Williams will pounce on her second serve.
With the weight of history against her, it will take a perfect serving day from the Russian for her to stand a chance against Williams. Nothing less will do.


A composite photo of Garbine Muguruza, left, and Agnieszka Radwanska.

Agnieszka Radwanska vs Garbine Muguruza

Grass is the elixir that was needed to revive Radwanska's poor season, going by her performance on the surface thus far this season. With her results at Nottingham, Eastbourne, and the Wimbledon semifinals, the Polish player will earn 1195 ranking points, even if she loses on Thursday. That's more points than she has earned in her entire season thus far. Radwanska will also return to the Top 10 in the rankings.

Muguruza has been steadily climbing up the rankings with her improved performances at the majors. The Spaniard stunned defending champion Williams at the French Open last year in straight sets in the second round. At The Championships this year, the Spaniard has prevailed over some big names in the draw, including Caroline Wozniacki and Angelique Kerber.

Her ranking is sure to improve to No. 14, at least, and No. 6, at most, if she goes on to win the title.

The head-to-head between Radwanska and Muguruza is tied at 2-2. Radwanska won their first two encounters, at Miami in 2012 and at the Australian Open last year. But Muguruza has won their most recent clashes, at Dubai and Sydney earlier this year.

Radwanska was the runner-up in 2012, when she lost to Williams in the three-set final, and will contest her third Wimbledon semifinal, while Muguruza is playing her first Grand Slam semifinal. On the basis of experience, the Polish player has the edge.

The rivalry is also a contrast of styles. Muguruza likes to play aggressively and assert herself with her groundstrokes, whereas Radwanska's counterpunching style is helped by grass, where she can use her angles and spins and low backhands to draw her opponents into the cat-and-mouse exchanges she so enjoys.

This semifinal is likely to be the more competitive of the two.