Sharapova, Serena set up bitter Wimbledon campaign
London: Maria Sharapova tore into Wimbledon rival Serena Williams on the eve of the Championships, setting the tone for a tournament likely to be dominated by their unseemly public row.
The Russian blasted the defending champion for her controversial comments over a high-profile rape case and even ripped into the American`s colourful private life.
In the astonishing attack on the world number one, Sharapova told Williams to keep her opinions to herself, laying bare the bitter relationship between the two.
Williams, the 16-time Grand Slam title-winner, was forced to apologise for her comments regarding the rape of a 16-year-old girl by two high school American football players in Ohio.
"She should be talking about her accomplishments, her achievements, rather than everything else that`s just getting attention and controversy," said Sharapova.
The world number three, who has not beaten her great rival since 2004, also criticised Williams`s love life after the American had aimed a thinly-disguised jibe at the Russian`s affair with Bulgarian player, Grigor Dimitrov -- believed to be a former Williams boyfriend.
"There are people who live, breathe and dress tennis. I mean, seriously, give it a rest," Williams told Rolling Stone magazine without naming Sharapova.
"She begins every interview with `I`m so happy. I`m so lucky` -- it`s so boring. She`s still not going to be invited to the cool parties. And, hey, if she wants to be with the guy with a black heart, go for it."
Sharapova, clearly upset at the insinuation, hit back at Williams`s romance with her French coach Patrick Mouratoglou.
"If she wants to talk about something personal, maybe she should talk about her relationship and her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids," said Sharapova.
Williams, targeting a sixth All England Club title and 17th major, is fresh from her second French Open triumph, having beaten Sharapova in the final.
Williams is on a 31-match winning run, the best of a career which is already comfortably into its third decade.
She is now just two Grand Slam titles behind the 18 won by Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova and four back from the 22 racked up by Steffi Graf.
Williams` confidence is bad news for Sharapova, who is seeking a second Wimbledon title, nine years after her first.
Sharapova`s defeat in Paris was her 14th in 16 meetings with the American with her last win coming back on 2004.
Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka is seeded second and the Belarusian will be looking to go further than the semi-finals she reached in the last two years at Wimbledon.
She said it was "difficult to avoid" her friend Serena`s comments but was prepared to give her the "benefit of the doubt".
"I know what it`s like to be misunderstood sometimes.
"If I need some explanation from somebody, I`ll go ask them directly."
She said she was looking to "make that extra step" and reach the final this time.
"It`s just important to take your opportunities. First of all, it`s important to get there," she stressed.
Poland`s Agnieszka Radwanska, who took a set off Williams in last year`s final, is seeded four.
She received praise from men`s world number two Andy Murray, who said she was his favourite female player to watch.
"She plays a slightly different game, hits lobs, drop shots, moves well. She has variety and I like that," the Briton said.
Another contender with something to prove is the 2011 champion Petra Kvitova.
The Czech was dumped out in the quarter-finals by Williams last year and has yet to get past a Grand Slam fourth round since.
Seeded eighth, the left-hander has won just one singles tournament -- Dubai -- since August last year.
She was dumped out of the Eastbourne warm-up tournament early and has since been practising with Daniela Hantuchova.
Five-time champion Venus Williams will be missing from this year`s tournament due to an ongoing lower back injury.