LONDON -- Maria vs. Serena.
Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams have played each other twice at Wimbledon -- once for the title in 2004 -- and will be meeting on the grass again at the legendary All England Club.
This time, it will be for an Olympic gold medal.
The two biggest stars in the women’s game will play in the women’s final on Saturday, requiring little effort to get past the semifinal stage Friday. Williams, seeded fourth, beat No. 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, 6-1, 6-2, and No. 3 Sharapova of Russia beat countrywoman Maria Kirilenko, 6-2, 6-3.
Serena Williams won doubles gold with older sister Venus in Sydney in 2000 and in Beijing in 2008, and is seeking her first Olympic medal in singles. This latest victory extended Williams’ winning streak at the All England Club to 12 matches, as she won Wimbledon last month.
Sharapova beat Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon final, which launched her career in spectacular fashion. She has won every major title in her career, and this is the first time Sharapova represents Russia at the Olympics. She was the country’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony.
“I feel although we play for our country and we represent it on a daily basis, I think that at the Olympics, there’s so much more pride,” she said. “You’re doing it for the country. I mean, especially in Russia, it’s such a huge part of our culture.
“I grew up where it was all about watching the Olympics, the opening ceremony, just being so happy. It really just brought the nation together.”
Sharapova finished her match before the outcome of the other semifinal.
“This is a chance once in four years,” she said. “It doesn’t really matter who’s across the net. I’ll be going, fighting, trying to win that match.”