Williams and Sharapova fight for title and top spot

Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will play for both the No. 1 ranking and the Madrid Open title today after both won their semi-finals in straight sets.

Williams will have a chance to win her 50th career title after beating Sara Errani of Italy 7-5, 6-2, while Sharapova got her 500th career win at all levels by seeing off Serb Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 6-3.

Sharapova has won all ten sets she has played on Madrid’s clay but Williams has a 12-2 record against the Russian.

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After a skittish start, Williams dominated Errani and broke her final service game in both sets.

“I feel I played solid,” Williams said. “In the second set more than in the first, I made a few less errors, which is something I needed to do.”

The world No.1 and defending champion said Sharapova would pose a difficult challenge.

“I feel this whole tournament I have only played clay-court opponents,” said Williams. “All have been smaller than me. Tomorrow will be a different game, more power.”

Williams struggled with her shot-making early in the semi-final, uncharacteristically misfiring on three smashes in the first set, which she still managed to pull out after falling behind 3-1.

The 15-times Grand Slam winner then started clicking with her serve and held two games to love, but she needed four set points before finally breaking Errani with a forehand winner placed just inside the line. Williams then pressed her advantage and eased through the second set.

After Sharapova took the first set, Ivanovic opened up a 2-0 lead in the second. But the world No.2 responded and stole her serve twice, sealing the second break with a lob over the top of her Serb rival.

Sharapova has beaten Ivanovic, a fellow former No. 1, in their last six meetings.