World number one Maria Sharapova faces Team USA’s CoCo Vandeweghe in the semi-finals of the Billie Jean King Cup. The US team beat Sweden 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 in the quarter-finals on Friday while Sharapova beat two-time champion Serena Williams 6-2, 6-3 on Thursday.
The Russian has won the tournament twice before, as a 15-year-old amateur in 1999 and 2004. She is currently ranked 19th in the world.
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In the other semi-final, Vandeweghe is up against the world number six Angelique Kerber, a close friend from Wimbledon this year.
The match between Williams and Sharapova began with a one-hour, 23-minute rain delay, but the American quickly won the first set without facing a break point. In the second set the Australian Open champion, now ranked 81st, built up a 4-1 lead before the Russian stormed back and finally clinched it to reach the semi-finals.
Earlier on Friday, Vandeweghe said winning the Billie Jean King Cup was important because of the legacy of the tournament’s founder. King spearheaded Title IX, the 1972 law in the US guaranteeing equal access to education and sports for women.
“For a lot of girls in a lot of places it’s an opportunity not only to see someone like Serena, who is very far ahead of me, but also to see someone like me,” Vandeweghe said. “She stood on the shoulders of a lot of us in our generation.”
Two-time Australian Open champion Kerber moved into the semis, defeating the Czech Lucie Safarova 6-3, 6-4.
In the men’s quarter-finals on Friday, Marin Cilic of Croatia beat the 20th-ranked Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain 7-6, 6-4 and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany defeated the 17th-ranked Bernard Tomic of Australia 6-4, 6-4.