Sharapova to face Serena in semis

Maria Sharapova rallied to beat Kaia Kanepi on Thursday and next faces Serena Williams in the Brisbane International semifinals knowing she must dramatically improve to end a run of 13 straight defeats against her nemesis.

World number one Williams comfortably ousted Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova 6-3, 6-3 in 61 minutes, winning the first set without losing a point on serve – a feat the American had not achieved since she was a junior.

Sharapova was involved in an error-strewn battle, coming from a set down to defeat Estonia's Kanepi 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in two hours.

The pattern was set at the start as the match began with four successive breaks of serve.


Had 2012 champion Kanepi been in better form, the Sharapova-Williams showdown that the tournament organisers hoped for would have been scuppered.

"You're going up against a great champion that's playing great tennis atthe moment," Sharapova told reporters of her clash with Williams. "You know that you have to raise your level in order to beat her. I think the intensity level of our matches are always high. I think she goes up and wants to play the best tennis against me."

When asked about her frosty off-court relationship with Williams, the Russian replied: "I have said everything I have to say about it".

The American played down the animosity between the pair, saying: "I don't have anything against her".

After losing to Williams in their first meeting in Miami in 2004, the Russian went on win finals against the American at Wimbledon, claiming her first Grand Slam title, and in the Tour Championships of that year.

Then, in an epic 2005 Australian Open semifinals clash, Sharapova had three match points. "I remember a forehand inside out," Williams said. "I was down match point and I hit this winner and I didn't even blink.

"I hit the a winner and walked right to the other side and was ready for the next return as if it was just a 30-15 point." Williams went on to win the match 2-6, 7-5, 8-6 and since then has improved their head-to-head record to 14-2 in her favour. Sharapova claimed to have no memory of the match at Rod Laver Arena eight years ago.

 "2005? Oh, my God, I can't go back that far," Sharapova said. "I don't have too much time to look back at '04. I have a lot of things going on in my life.

"Some of the matches were a bit closer than others. When you go out on the court in a new time, you can't really rely on everything that happened in the past.

“You've got to start from scratch from the first point,” the Russian added.

Elsewhere, second seed Victoria Azarenka let slip nine match points before finally beating Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland 6-4, 6-7 (7-9), 6-1.The Belarusian next plays fourth-seeded Serb Jelena Jankovic who defeated German Angelique Kerber 6-7 (8-10), 6-3, 6-1.
In the men's event, unseeded Australian Lleyton Hewitt beat sixth-seeded Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 7-5, 6-3 and next faces Romanian qualifier Marius Copil in the quarter-finals. 

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