Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova: Venus Williams explains unexpected Met Gala photo

Venus Williams offered an explanation for an unexpected photograph of herself, her sister Serena Williams and former tennis player Maria Sharapova at this year’s Met Gala.

Tennis fans were taken by surprise when Sharapova published a picture of herself and the Williams sisters on Instagram. The photo showed the three sporting legends laughing together at the Met Gala.

Eagle-eyed fans then spotted Serena Williams and Sharapova laughing together in the background of a photo posted by American rapper Saweetie.

The images caused a storm on social media. It had long been believed that the Williams sisters and Sharapova did not get on, a result of their bitter rivalry on the court.

Sports journalist Max Goa posted: "I feel like I’m hallucinating.Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams took a picture together at the #MetGala!? What in the world?!"

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In a video posted on Instagram, Venus Williams put rumours about a bad relationship with Sharapova to bed. She also offered the backstory into the now-famous Met Gala photo.

"First of all, Serena and I were talking about Maria the day before," she revealed. "We were like, 'Damn, I wish Maria was still playing.'

"And we saw her, and we both told her separately, 'Oh my gosh, we were just talking about you yesterday, we wish you were still on Tour.'

"We were so happy to see each other. There was hugs, there was laughing, there were stories, and there was a photo. So the backstory is that even though us players compete really hard of the court for years, we still respect and love each other, and love Maria."

The origins of the rivalry rumours can be traced back to 2004, when Sharapova claimed in her autobiography that Serena Williams resented her for "being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds, at Wimbledon."

In the memoir, Sharapova recalls Williams crying after the 2004 final and saying, "I will never lose to that little bitch again."

Russia’s Sharapova did beat Williams one more time, overcoming the American star at the WTA Tour Championships in the same year. But Williams ensured she never lost again, winning the next 20 match-ups between the pair.

Sharapova retired from tennis last year with five Grand Slam titles to her name. Her career was somewhat tainted by a failed drugs test in 2016, for which she served a 15 month suspension.

Both Williams sisters are still playing tennis, with Serena hunting for an elusive 24th Grand Slam title. Venus has triumphed at seven Grand Slams so far.