Sharapova sees danger among unheralded trio
Maria Sharapova stands out in the Wimbledon semi-final crowd as the only woman with a grand slam title but she has no doubts about the credentials of her remaining rivals.
Today sees Sharapova take on Germany's Sabine Lisicki, in the tournament on a wild card, for a place in Saturday's final.
Before they take to Centre Court, the first finalist will be decided in the match between fourth seed Victoria Azarenka and number eight seed Petra Kvitova.
Sharapova, the fifth seed, won Wimbledon as a 17-year-old in 2004 and seven years later is the hot favourite for another grand slam title.
It would be her fourth, after the success at Wimbledon and further wins at the US Open and Australian Open, but it will require two strong performances to emerge as the pick of the semi-final quartet.
"In one sense, they're coming up, because they're reaching the bigger stages of the grand slams and they're trying to win their first one as well," the 24-year-old Russian said.
"But I also feel it's not the first time I'm seeing them in the draw or seeing them at the tournament. It's not like they're 15 or 16 years old."
Lisicki, 21, was a Wimbledon quarter-finalist two years ago and her ranking fell away due to an ankle injury, which is why she required the wild card.
A top-10 ranking beckons for her though, and Sharapova knows she is a threat.
"She hits very hard," Sharapova said. "She has probably one of the hardest serves on the tour, and that's very beneficial. She's used that very well on the grass. So that will be challenging."
Lisicki heads into the match with "absolutely nothing to lose", the German says.
"I'm here as a wild card. I'm here in the semis. I'm going to go out there and fight and give it all I have," she said.
The clash between Azarenka and Kvitova, both 21, guarantees there will be a first-time Wimbledon finalist.
It comes just three months after Azarenka, from Belarus, considered quitting tennis after a first-round defeat at a tournament in Doha, Qatar.
Only a frank discussion with her mother and grandmother stopped her from throwing in the towel.
"After Doha I didn't really want to play tennis. I just wanted to go home and rest," Azarenka said.
"My mum asked me, 'What are you going to do?'
"I said, 'I'm going to study'.
"She laughed out loud. She knew I was just in a bad place.
"She knows that I like to study, but she also knew I'd just get bored, because tennis is what I really love."
Azarenka's grandmother, who once had to work three jobs to make ends meet, delivered the most stinging rebuke to Azarenka's quit threat.
"She said I had to just shut up and stop complaining because I had a pretty damn good life," Azarenka said.
© Press Association