Love her or hate her, but respect her for being the best player in the world, maybe the best ever!

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Serena Williams thrashed Maria Sharapova to reach the semi-finals of the Madrid Open. The American triumphed 6-1 6-3 to claim her 11th successive victory on clay. Sharapova a recent winner in Stuttgart, was again beset by problems with her serve. She produced eight double faults and was shown no mercy by Williams. The new blue clay on show in the Spanish capital is playing fast, something which would appear to aid Williams’ power game. She has already won on clay in Charleston this season – another venue known for its court speed – but whether Williams will be able to continue her impressive form on the slower courts of Rome and Roland Garros remains to be seen.

Earlier in the day Victoria Azarenka fought back from a set down to reach the last four. The world number one found herself in trouble against reigning French Open champion Li Na but recovered to post a 3-6 6-3 6-3 success. Li started like a train and when she broke serve in the opening game of the second set, a shock looked on the cards. However, Azarenka retrieved the break immediately and pushed on in the second set to level the match. The momentum was well and truly with the Belarusian entering the decider and she duly raced 4-0 in front. Li found a second wind though, recovering to 4-3 and then threatened to break Azarenka again to level the set. However, Azarenka held her nerve, her serve and closed the match out in the following game. The top seed will next face Agnieszka Radwanska, a player she has beaten five times already this season.

Czech qualifier Lucie Hradecka continued her shock run through the Mutua Madrid Open, following up her second round upset over reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova with a 76(8) 76(6) quarterfinal stunner over reigning US Open champion Sam Stosur, firing 19 aces in the process. Though she came into Madrid ranked No.105, Hradecka has seen much higher heights, having gone as high as No.41 in the world last summer. She brought out her best in her upset of World No.4 Kvitova earlier in the week, and she did it all over again against World No.5 Stosur, keeping the pressure on in a tight first set tie-break and closing it out on her fourth set point, then saving a set point in the second set tie-break. Neither player was broken in 24 service games. Hradecka’s wins against Kvitova and Stosur are her first two Top 10 wins, and the 26-year-old was already competing in her first ever Premier quarterfinal. Next up is Serena Williams.



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