Serena Williams started off her 2014 season the same way she finished 2013, with strong tennis being played at the Brisbane International tennis tournament and now the AP Female Athlete of the Year will play against rival Maria Sharapova down under in the tune-up for the Australian Open semifinals on Thursday/Friday and the match will be starting up at 5:30 am Friday ET for the much-anticipated show down of the two top female tennis players.
Sharapova is coming into the tournament after dealing with injuries at the end of last season that knocked her out of some tournaments, while Williams is looking to continue playing some of the best tennis of her career after winning multiple grand slams in 2013, including the US Open. Williams is looking to win Brisbane again and that would give her some nice momentum into the first grand slam of the year, where she lost last time around to Sloane Stephens and that loss may have kicked her determination into high gear for the season and she was extremely impressive, losing single digit matches over the entire season, dropping only four of 82 total.
Williams comes into the match against Sharapova dominating once again after winning against Diminika Cibulkova and she lost just six games and won 6-3, 6-3 in the match and she did not lose a point on her serve in the first set and that could mean trouble for Sharapova, who has struggled against Williams' serve in the past.
Williams has a nice edge against Sharapova with a 14-2 record and now things have gone mental in the matchup between the two, as Williams has not won 13 straight and the two aren't quite friendly either, as they went back and forth last year about relationships that included one player they both may have been involved with and that dominated some headlines in the summer and now Sharapova comes back after dealing with a shoulder injury that kept her out of action and now it's time to return, while Victoria Azarenka is also lining up for a post in the finals ahead of the Australian Open, which she won last year.
Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams are on course for one of the first marquee matchups of the season as the Brisbane International tournament warm up for the Australian Open, as the two women are into the semifinals and they will play on Thursday night in America and on Friday during the day in Australia down under and here is a look at the matchup from Reuters.com. Sharapova rallied to beat Kaia Kanepi on Thursday and next faces Serena Williams in the Brisbane International semi-finals 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 organizers hoped for would have been scuppered.
The Russian improved as the match went on and in the third set her service accuracy improved to 84 percent, nearly double her efforts in the first two sets. The American played down the animosity between the pair, saying: "I don't have anything against her".
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.
Copil put out third seed Gilles Simon of France 7-5 6-3. (Reuters)