London: Serena Williams, a 16-time Grand Slam winner, infuriated Maria Sharapova by making a thinly-veiled reference to the World No. 3’s relationship with Bulgarian player Grigor Dimitrov, believed to be Serena’s former boyfriend, during a recent interview with a magazine.

“She begins every interview with ‘I’m so happy. I’m so lucky’ — it’s so boring. She’s still not going to be invited to the cool parties. And, hey, if she wants to be with the guy with a black heart, go for it,” Serena was quoted as saying.

Sharapova was so upset by Serena’s comments that she hit back on Saturday by drawing attention to the American’s romance with her French coach Patrick Mouratoglou.

Sharapova also claimed she was “sad” that Williams made controversial comments in the same article regarding the rape of a 16-year-old girl by two high school American football players in the Ohio town of Steubenville.

But Serena, who starts her Wimbledon title defence against Luxembourg’s Mandy Minella, refused to escalate the row with her rival on the eve of the grass-court Grand Slam.

The World No. 1 said she sought out Sharapova to apologize at a WTA players’ party in London last week. “I feel like Maria, unfortunately, was inadvertently brought into a situation she should have never been brought into,” Serena said.

“I’m the first person to apologize. I’m the first person to reach out to individuals and people if I feel that something may have hurt them or something may have been misconstrued,” she added.

“I personally talked to Maria at the player party. I said; ‘Look, I want to personally apologize to you if you are offended by being brought into my situation. I want to take this moment to just pour myself, be open, say I’m very sorry for this whole situation,” Serena said.

Serena, 31, was repeatedly asked about the controversy at  press conference, but she made a spirited attempt to deflect questions about any lingering bad blood between the pair.

“We always have great conversations, so I believe that she definitely did accept it (the apology),” Serena said.

“I know she also said that I should definitely focus on the tennis here, and I feel like that is another thing I can definitely take her advice on,” Serena added.

(Agencies)

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