Wimbledon 2013: Maria Sharapova keeps mum on 'love-triangle'
Russian will meet Serena Williams in an
eagerly-awaited final if they both keep winning
It took until the third question of the press conference, after a couple of anodyne queries about the actual tennis, before the question everyone wanted the answer to was asked of Maria Sharapova.
What was the state of play in her 'love-triangle feud' with Serena Williams, the other leading light of the ladies' game?
The phrase 'love-triangle feud' was avoided, but however carefully couched the question Sharapova knew the enquiry was coming and despatched it as she does most opponents, though more quietly.
“I've said everything I want to say about the issue. Wimbledon has started, this is my work, my job. I'd really appreciate it if we move on.”
She was not going to escape that easily, not after the storm provoked by unguarded comments made by Williams about, it appears, Sharapova and her boyfriend, Bulgarian tennis player Grigor Dimitrov - and the Russian's waspish response.
The next three questions were along on the same the lines and several others addressed the subject obliquely, but Sharapova would not be drawn, She had said her piece, as she underlined when she added: “Wimbledon has just started. This is where all of us work, this is our job, to go out on court and win matches.”
Sharapova won her match, defeating the obdurate Kristina Mladenovic 7-6, 6-3, and if both keep winning she will meet Williams in the final and, if it follows the pattern of previous encounters, lose.
That will be a eagerly-awaited match given the very public spat with Williams. Rolling Stone magazine ascribed comments made by Williams about an unnamed top-five player and her boyfriend as references to Sharapova and Dimitrov - who is said to be a former partner of Williams. In the magazine's interpretation – not denied by Williams – Dimitrov is described as 'the guy with the black heart' and Sharapova as someone who's 'not going to be invited to the cool parties'.
The Russian responded on Saturday by suggesting Williams should instead discuss 'her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids'. This is presumed to be an allusion to Williams' rumoured relationship with her coach Patrick Mouratoglou.
Williams said on Sunday she had already apologised to Sharapova before the latter spoke about the issue adding she would 'like to keep my personal life personal'.
All of which meant Sharapova's first-round tie against Mladenovic, a French-born daughter of a Yugoslav handball international father and volleyball-playing mother, was just a sideline – and not just because, as the empty seats in the Royal Box highlighted, it was sandwiched between the matches of Roger Federer and Andy Murray..
Nevertheless, Sharapova was soon forced to concentrate on her tennis with Mladenovic taking her to a tie-break in a tight 57-minute first set. Sharapova prevailed but the second set was only marginally easier taking 45minutes before Sharapova finally screamed and shrieked her way to a 7-6, 6-3 win with the power and accuracy of her pounding ground-strokes proving the difference.
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