Serena Willaims shrugged off her unseeded status and delivered a dominating 6-1 6-3 victory over second-seeded Maria Sharapova on Friday to reach the semi-finals of the WTA Stanford tournament.
Williams, a 13-time grand slam champion who is unseeded thanks to the slump in her ranking caused by a lengthy injury layoff, showed she’s still a contender among the game’s elite as she overpowered Sharapova, who struggled throughout with her serve.
Williams was playing just her third tournament since she won Wimbledon in 2010. She was then sidelined for 11 months by a series of health problems including a cut foot that required surgery and blood clots in her lungs.
Currently ranked 169th, Williams defeated Sharapova for the sixth straight time and improved to 7-2 overall against her.
Sharapova, ranked fifth in the world and fresh off a runner-up finish at Wimbledon, hasn’t beaten Williams since the 2004 WTA Championships.
Williams next faces big-hitting German Sabine Lisicki, a 7-6 (7-4), 2-6 6-2 winner over fifth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.
Lisicki made it to the semi-finals at Wimbledon as a wildcard, but her dream run at the All England Club was ended by eventual runner-up Sharapova.
“I’m looking forward to the match,” Lisicki said. “I love competing in the big matches. I have nothing to lose.”
Third-seeded Marion Bartoli reached the semi-finals as Ayumi Morita retired with a right ankle injury after dropping the first set of their quarter-final 6-1.
It was a disappointing exit for Morita, who had beaten former world No.1 Ana Ivanovic of Serbia in the first round and survived two match points as she rallied to beat Polish qualifier Urszula Radwanska in the second round on Thursday.
France’s Bartoli next faces eighth-seeded Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova, who breezed past New Zealand qualifier Marina Erakovic 6-1 6-1.
Erakovic had stunned top seed and defending champion Victoria Azarenka on Thursday, but couldn’t findan answer for Cibulkova, who needed little more than an hour to advance.