LONDON — Maria Sharapova tore into Wimbledon tennis 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 No 1, 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 No 3, 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’ 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.