LONDON • Serena Williams fired a warning to Maria Sharapova ahead of their Wimbledon semi-final clash, as the world No. 1 admitted she saves her best performances for clashes with her fiercest rival.
Williams and Sharapova meet today in the latest instalment of a bitter rivalry that took root on Centre Court in 2004 and still festers more than a decade later.
Sharapova caused one of the greatest Wimbledon shocks 11 years ago when, aged just 17, she defeated Serena in the final to claim her first Grand Slam title.
The duo's relationship has remained frosty ever since, occasionally turning nasty - as it did two years ago when they traded barbs about Sharapova dating Williams' ex-boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov and the American's own relationship with her French coach Patrick Mouratoglou.
But while Sharapova has won five Grand Slam titles and built a global brand that makes her the world's highest-paid female athlete, the 28-year-old has been left trailing in Williams' wake and has not beaten the American since 2004.
The 33-year-old American has a 17-2 lead in their head-to-head record, winning their last 16 meetings and depriving Sharapova of three major titles - in the 2007 and 2015 Australian Open finals as well as the 2013 French Open final.
Williams has also won all four of her semi-final meetings with Sharapova, defeating the Russian in their previous Wimbledon clash in the last 16 in 2010 and routing her in the 2012 Olympic final at the All England Club.
After battling back to defeat Victoria Azarenka 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the last eight - extending her winning run at Grand Slams to 26 matches and her 2015 record to 37-1 - she said she cannot wait to take on Sharapova again.
"I love playing Maria. I think she brings out the best in me. I thought we had a wonderful final in Australia. It was very entertaining," said Williams, who remains on course to hold all four major titles at once and is in the hunt to clinch the first calendar Grand Slam since 1988.
"For me, I don't feel like I have any pressure going into this match. I don't have anything to prove.
"I won all the Grand Slams, multiple times. Now, it's just I am here just to enjoy it.
"It's actually making me play better, which is crazy."
Sharapova is in her fifth Wimbledon semi-final, and her first since 2011, thanks to a hard-fought 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 6-2 last-eight victory over Coco Vandeweghe.
Asked if her lack of success in the Williams match-up would be weighing on her mind, Sharapova gamely insisted she still relishes the challenge of playing the American.
"I haven't had great success against her. I would love to change that around. That's how I look at it," the world No. 4 said.
"Definitely no secrets between each other's games, but it will be an incredible moment for me to step out on Centre Court against her again," she added.
Day 10: Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, 6.30pm.
Women's singles s-finals: Ch114 & Ch208, 8pm