Sharapova sees off old tormentor as Riske rises

Birmingham: Maria Sharapova once again proved too strong for her old foe Sesil Karatantcheva on Friday as she reached the semi-finals at the grasscourt event here with a 6-2, 6-4 victory.

Back in 2004, an altercation in practice at the Indian Wells event in the United States led to Karatantcheva vowing to kick "her (Sharapova`s) butt".

But in front of a standing-room only crowd on one of the outer courts, Sharapova beat Karatantcheva in three sets, before thrashing her 6-0, 6-1 in the second round at Wimbledon a year later.

Karatantcheva, the 2004 French Open junior champion, was banned as a 16-year-old for two years for a drugs offence in 2006.

The Bulgarian-born player, who now represents Kazakhstan, has always maintained her innocence after testing positive for the steroid nandrolone.

Second seed Sharapova won two matches on Thursday, completing a rain-delayed 6-0, 6-3 victory over Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the United States and then beating fellow Russian Alla Kudryavtseva 6-3, 6-1.

Sharapova, Wimbledon champion in 2004, has won this Wimbledon warm-up event twice before and is seeded to meet China`s Li Na in the final.

But Sharapova must first get past Alison Riske in the last four.

The US teenager arrived at Birmingham never having won a match on the main Women`s Tennis Association (WTA) tour but she continued her fine form at Edgbaston with a three-set victory over world number 16 Yanina Wickmayer.

Belgian third see Wickmayer won the first set on a tie break but a service break in each of the next two sets saw the 19-year-old Riske to a 6-7, (5/7) 6-4, 6-3 win.

Regardless of the result of her match with Sharapova, Riske is sure to improve her career-high ranking of 185.

Playing two matches in a day, as happened in several of Friday`s quarter-finals, worked against Italian fifth seed Sara Errani.

Having beaten Marina Erakovic of New Zealand in three sets in the morning, Errani was defeated in straight sets by fourth seed Aravane Rezai, with the Frenchwoman winning 7/6 (7/2), 7-5 in a close encounter.

Bureau Report

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