Very rarely will two multi slam champions meet in the first round of a slam but this is what has happened in the women’s draw with Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. Their ‘rivalry’ will be ignited on Monday night when the pair face off for the 22nd time. Serena will be hoping for her 20th win, having not faced Sharapova since 2016.
Sharapova has struggled to really hit the heights in her comeback over the past few years and still finds herself ranked very low by her standards. She is currently outside the top 80 having barely played this year and missing the entirety of the clay season. She won 1 match over the hard court swing prior to the US Open and will be kicking herself for failing to close out a tight three setter with Anett Kontaveit in Toronto. A decisive loss to Ashleigh Barty in Cincinnati leaves her short on matches heading into New York.
For Serena, the pressure of trying to match Margaret Court’s slam count does look to be building as she has wilted in multiple slam finals up to now. That will be ramped up once more in her home slam, especially with how last year’s final played out. There’s no doubt that she is the favourite for the tournament if fit and healthy but that is more and more unlikely with each tournament she plays it would appear. She did make the final in Toronto but an early retirement deprived us of a potentially epic encounter with Bianca Andreescu.
The lack of matches for Sharapova is sure to be a hindrance as she comes into this one, taking on an opponent that has had the better of her for almost 15 years. Serena will be eager to establish herself as the favourite with this one and doing it on the biggest stage in the biggest first round possible seems an appropriate way to start her title charge.
Prediction – Serena Williams in straight sets