Sharapova, Williams getting personal

The record may be one-sided but the animosity has run both ways. Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are the two biggest names in women's tennis, and Brisbane will host the pair's first meeting since their rivalry spilled into personal territory last June.

Williams had been quoted in Rolling Stone magazine ridiculing an unidentified top-five player thought to be Sharapova, and claiming her boyfriend – presumed to be Grigor Dimitrov, who was rumoured to have previously been involved with Williams – had a "black heart".

Sharapova responded in the very public forum of a Wimbledon news conference by saying: "'If she wants to talk about something personal, maybe she should talk about her relationship, and her boyfriend [referring to coach Patrick Mouratoglou] that was married, and is getting a divorce and has kids."

Asked this week whether the ill-feeling lingers, Williams said: "I don't know. You would have to ask her. I don't know why she said some things about me. I don't know. I guess she was hurt.

"I'm just here to play tennis, and whatever her or anyone else thinks, at the end of the day I'm a tennis player and I don't harbour any resentful feelings"

Sharapova addressed the issue in a recent interview in Florida, she said, to "clear the air", but refused to elaborate after reaching the semi-finals of the Brisbane International with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 defeat of 2011 champion Kaia Kanepi.

"On the court, I have the utmost respect for her; I really do," Sharapova told The New York Times. And off the court? "It's different."

On court, indeed, Williams has been a comprehensive winner, sweeping all 13 of the pair's matches since 2005, starting with an epic Australian Open final in which the American saved three match points. Sharapova, who had won the Wimbledon and WTA Championships finals against Williams the previous year, has claimed just two sets in the 12 matches since, and none in the most recent, the 2013 French Open decider.

A rivalry? Is it? "Well, I think I've got to win a few times in order to call it rivalry," Sharapova quipped on Thursday.

"I know I've tried and I didn't succeed in the last many times that I've played her, but I'm setting up an opportunity to go out there and try to change that, and I'm going to try to do that.

"I haven't had a lot of success against her in the past. 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. There is no substitute for getting ready for a grand slam and competing against the best. She's been on a roll the past couple of years with her level and the way that she's been able to play. I've competed against her a few times last year; didn't work. You always hope that you can go out and give yourself a chance to do better next time."

Williams momentarily forgot her racquet bag, then did not lose a point on serve in the first set of her far more comfortable quarter-final against ninth seed Dominika Cibulkova – a feat not achieved since her junior days.

Asked about the chances of sharing a close friendship with a peer such as Sharapova, Williams said: "Well, it's very difficult, I think, for anyone to be best buddies when you're so competitive. But I don't have a problem with anyone. I get along with everyone. I have respect for people not only on the court but as well off the court."

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