Developing rivalry has plenty of potential
MELBOURNE, Australia -- It's not quite Martina vs. Chrissy, say, or even Serena vs. Venus.
But the developing rivalry between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova has the potential to turn into an enduring one. Especially if they keep meeting in big matches.
And both players look forward to the next one.
"She's one of the best competitors out there," Sharapova said Thursday after her 2-6, 7-5, 8-6 loss to Williams in the Australian Open semifinals. "She's been in those situations when she was down in the third set, and out of nowhere she knows how to turn it around. That comes from experience; that comes from her fighting spirit."
Williams, 23, saved three match points and twice broke Sharapova when the 17-year-old Russian served for the match.
Williams, who has six career singles Grand Slam titles to Sharapova's one, won their first meeting, at Miami in 2004. But she lost to Sharapova twice later in the season: the Wimbledon final and the season-ending tour championships final.
"I definitely think she has a fighting spirit," Williams said, "and I think that's gotten her to where she is today."
She also feels that Sharapova, who moved to Florida from Russia when she was 7, considers her a role model.
"She's probably looked at me as a reference growing up, which is exciting," Williams said. "I never thought I'd play someone that probably looked up to me."
But the mutual admiration society ended there Thursday. When asked what Williams had showed her during the match, Sharapova replied "nothing."
And Williams reminded everyone that, although she credited Sharapova with having a fighting spirit, the American considers herself the "top fighter out there."
Williams also saved match points against Kim Clijsters in the 2003 Australian Open semifinals.
"Those are always the best wins, when you're down match point, because you realize that you can't give up," she said.
Sharapova didn't give up, either. She just couldn't quite pull out the win.
"I gave it all I had. I played from my heart," Sharapova said. "I didn't take my chances when I could. And that's what this game is all about. The match could have gone any way, and she took her chances and she played well when she needed to. That's the difference."
Serena Williams has a suggestion for using instant replay or some other form of electronic aid for officials at tennis matches.
"It should be to a point where you can only challenge like two or three calls in a match," Williams said at the Australian Open on Thursday.
"A player can't challenge every call."
She's in favor of helping line judges and chair umpires, perhaps because of her much-discussed loss to Jennifer Capriati at last year's U.S. Open. Williams was hurt by a handful of officiating errors, and the American Grand Slam is looking into the possibility of making a change this year.
"We're very encouraged by the initial testing," U.S. Tennis Association spokesman Chris Widmaier said. "There's a lot of steps to go, but our goal is to have some type of electric line calling aids for umpires at the 2005 U.S. Open.
"We're taking a calculated and measured approach. The exact method of how it will be introduced is still being determined."
He said the USTA hopes to implement a system for tournaments in the U.S. Open Series during the summer.
The Australian Open is hoping to introduce new technology in 2006, a tournament spokesman said.
FROM 'FAULT' TO 'FORE'
Scott Draper will be busy Friday: He's making his professional golf debut in the morning and playing an Australian Open mixed doubles semifinal in the afternoon.
Draper, 30, advanced to the tennis semifinals when he and Samantha Stosur beat fellow Australians Wayne Arthurs and Trudi Musgrave 6-2, 7-6 (7).
That forced him to double up Friday; he's entered in the 54-hole Victoria Open golf tournament at Woodsland in Melbourne. After that opening round, he'll put away his clubs, drive back to Melbourne Park and pull out his tennis racket.
He played 18 holes of golf Thursday morning before practicing tennis at Rod Laver Arena in the afternoon.
Draper, whose one ATP title came on grass courts at Queen's Club in London in 1998, qualified for his Australasian PGA tour card in December.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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