Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova.
Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova. AAP

Stars lined up for semi-final action

TENNIS: Maria Sharapova has beaten the world No.1 seven times, but has never beaten Serena Williams when the American has been the highest-ranked player in the women's game.

The Russian will have the chance to rectify that today when she takes on Williams in a semi-final of the Brisbane International.

Sharapova, playing her first tournament since a shoulder injury cut short her 2013 season, had to battle hard yesterday to beat Estonia's Kaia Kanepi 4-6 6-3 6-2.

The world No.1 on the other hand made light work of Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova 6-3 6-3, finishing the match with 12 aces after winning every point on serve in the first set.

Williams has a career 14-2 advantage over Sharapova, including the last 13 in succession.

The Russian said despite the lop-sided scoreline, it was important for her to play quality opponents to prepare for the Australian Open.

"I came here wanting to play as many matches as I could and wanting to play the best," Sharapova said.

"There's no substitute for getting ready for a Grand Slam than competing against the best.

"She's been on a roll the last couple of years with her level. I competed against her a few times last year ... didn't work.

"You always hope that you can go out and give yourself a chance to do better next time."

Williams will certainly go into the match prepared for a contest.

She said she always put extra emphasis on contests against the world's best players.

"When I'm playing anyone in the top five, or top 10, I approach that match differently because they know what it takes to win," Williams said.

"Some of them have won Grand Slams, so they know what it takes to go even further.

"You can't underestimate those players, because they're ranked at that level for a reason."

The other drawcard match today will be the men's quarter-final between Roger Federer and Australia's Marinko Matosevic.

Federer warmed up for the clash by joining forces with Frenchman Nicolas Mahut in the doubles yesterday to beat Jeremy Chardy and Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 6-7 11-9.

The other key men's match will be the quarter-final between No.2 seed Kei Nishikori from Japan who takes on big-serving Croatian Marin Cilic.

Last night Lleyton Hewitt upset sixth seed Feliciano Lopez to move into the quarter-finals.

Hewitt won 7-5 6-3 to set up a clash with Romanian qualifier Marius Copil, who earlier beat third seed Gilles Simon 7-5 6-3.

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