Sharapova, of Russia, left, congratulates Serena Williams at
the Sony Open tennis tournament in Key Biscayne, Fla.,
Thursday, March 27, 2014. Willaims won 6-4, 6-3.
Fla. — Between points, Serena Williams stood motionless behind
the baseline with her back to the net, as if trying to match —
or mimic — the methodical ritual of her opponent, Maria
They took turns
waiting on each other, the pace of play plodding, which only
delayed the inevitable. Williams beat Sharapova for the 15th
consecutive time Thursday, rallying in both sets to win 6-4, 6-3
in the Sony Open semifinals.
always felt when I'm playing at my best, then it's hard for people
to beat me," Williams said.
could say the same. He advanced to the semifinals by hitting a
flurry of forehand winners down the stretch to beat Milos Raonic
4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
On Saturday, the
No. 1-ranked Williams will try for a record seventh Key Biscayne
title against No. 2 Li Na, who overcame 40 unforced errors to beat
Dominika Cibulkova 7-5, 2-6, 6-3. Williams is 10-1 against Li.
to 16-2 against Sharapova, whose most recent victory in their
rivalry came in 2004.
results against her, I still look forward to playing against her
because you learn so much from that type of level which she
produces," Sharapova said. "You finish the match, and
you know where you need to improve and the things that you need to
credit a superior serve and better returns for her latest win. She
hit nine aces and broke five times, which helped her rebound from
deficits of 4-1 in the first set and 2-0 in the second.
playing my best," Williams said. "I knew if I wanted to
stay in the tournament and make another final, I just had to play
She did, earning
her 14th consecutive victory against a top-10 player.
The No. 1-ranked
Nadal, who is 0-3 in Key Biscayne finals, needs one more win to
get there again. His opponent Friday night will be No. 7-seeded
Tomas Berdych, who advanced by beating No. 22 Alexandr Dolgopolov
6-4, 7-6 (3).
Nadal has beaten
Berdych 16 times in a row over the past seven years.
tournament is a tournament where I really feel the love of the
people so much," Nadal said, "so I'm going to try my
best to keep playing well."
champion Novak Djokovic will play in the other semifinal Friday
against No. 20-seeded Kei Nishikori, who eliminated Roger Federer
won Key Biscayne in 2002 and is the defending champion. A minority
owner in the Miami Dolphins, she has worn the team's orange and
turquoise throughout the tournament she considers her home event
because she lives 90 minutes up Interstate 95.
"When I grew
up I always wanted to play here," she said. "I guess I
just don't want to let go. It's my favorite stop on the tour. It's
home. All my friends come. So it's perfect for me."
There was no
evidence of a home-court advantage at the start, when Williams
failed to convert four early break-point chances and fell behind.
Sharapova cracked a succession of winners from the baseline and
earned applause from Williams after besting her in one exchange.
is notorious for her deliberate routine between points, Williams
doesn't usually play so slowly.
"I just made
some errors, and when that happened, I was just trying to regroup
and get my mind back together and just try to get back focused and
just try to get things going again," she said. "It just
helps me to be able to relax. Sometimes I do get a little
worked. Williams broke back when Sharapova committed three
consecutive backhand errors, and gained momentum from there,
sweeping the final five games of the first set.
The story was
similar in the second set, and after falling behind, Williams
resorted to her dominating power. She quickly won one game with
two aces and two service winners during a stretch when she swept
11 consecutive points.
moments she served really well today," Sharapova said.
"Big serves. I got a few of them, but not good enough to get
myself back in the point."
and pace improved as the match progressed. She peaked at 122 mph.
been serving great too much this tournament, and then I started
serving a lot better today," she said. "I was hitting
120. I was like, 'Whoa. Is that me?'"
committed groundstroke errors on the final three points, and a
victorious Williams trotted to the net, her left fist leading the