(1) Serena Williams vs. (2) Maria Sharapova – H2H Williams leads 13-2 (3-0 on clay)
A grand slam final between the world’s top two ranked players, who are also the biggest superstars in the game, should be keenly anticipated. However, such has been the dominance of Serena Williams over Maria Sharapova in their previous matches that most fans are hoping the match is not a blow-out, forget wishing for a thrilling epic final.
Besides being the biggest drawcards in the game, the American and the Russian are also two of the most polarizing figures in the women’s game. Millions of fans love them for the hard work, electrifying tennis and glamour they bring to the court. However, just as many are appalled by Serena’s bad-loser attitude and volatile temper, and Sharapova’s grunt-shriek-wail-whatever-you-may-want-to-call-it.
But even their harshest critics could never accuse them of not giving their best or trying their hardest every time they come out to play. Which should have made this an interesting rivalry. Unfortunately, for everything that binds them together, the one thing that sets them wide apart is their serve.
Ever since coming from career-threatening shoulder surgery in 2008, the Russian’s serve has been susceptible to double faults, more so under clutch situations in matches. On the other hand, Serena’s serve has been a weapon of mass destruction. And that is the biggest factor that has resulted in the lopsided history between these two.
Still, Saturday’s battle, their fifth in slams (Serena leads 3-1), their fourth this year (Serena leads 3-0) and their first at Roland Garros, should be interesting to watch. If nothing else, then to see just how Sharapova tries to overcome a 12-match eight-year losing streak against Williams.
“I’d be lying if [I said the losing streak] doesn’t bother me,” Sharapova said. “Obviously whatever I did in the past hasn’t worked, so I’ll have to try to do something different and hopefully it will. I have given myself a chance to face the favorite.
“A lot of what I have or possess has helped me get to the stage where I am today,” Sharapova said. “Of course I have lost to her numerous amounts of times. When I go out there, whatever I have done, in the past, has not worked. You try to go out there and do something different, because whatever you have done just hasn’t performed well. I hope that I can.”
Whatever happens, Sharapova will need to start strong and stay close to Williams in the early part of the match. Once Serena gets the early lead, she is likely to run away with the title – and move a step closer to the G.O.A.T. territory. A win for Serena would be her 16th slam title, two shy of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova’s 18 slam tally.
Serena knows how much another title in Paris, she only won here once way back in 2003, would mean and says, “It would be awesome for me. I don’t think there’s anything that can describe how happy I would be. But right now it’s still a dream – I still have another match to play, hopefully to win. It’s still two people fighting for the championship.”
Both players have come back from serious injuries and health concerns and persevered through the dark moments purely motivated by their love for the game. The million-dollar checks and the fame certainly helps, but what both women will be fighting for on Saturday is the glory of being a two-time French Open champion.
Prediction – Serena Williams in straight sets