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Ladies and gentlemen, get ready for what is set to be yet another one-sided final between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. We’ll tell you why in this full-detailed preview of the 2013 French Open women’s final preview.
Serena Williams versus Maria Sharapova:
Head-to-head: S. Williams 13-2
Last meeting: S. Williams 6-1, 6-4, final, 2013 Madrid Open
Road to the final:
First round: bt Anna Tatishvili 6-0, 6-1
Second round: bt Caroline Garcia 6-1, 6-2
Third round: bt Sorana Cirstea 6-0, 6-2
Fourth round: bt Roberta Vinci 6-1, 6-3
Quarter-final: bt Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 3-6, 6-3
Semi-final: bt Sara Errani 6-0, 6-1
First round: bt Hsieh Su-Wei 6-2, 6-1
Second round: bt Eugenie Bouchard 6-2, 6-4
Third round: bt Zheng Jie 6-1, 7-5
Fourth round: bt Sloane Stephens 6-4, 6-3
Quarter-final: bt Jelena Jankovic 0-6, 6-4, 6-3
Semi-final: bt Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 2-6, 6-4
So, here we are. For the first time since the 2004 Australian Open, the world’s top two women will contest a Grand Slam final.
Serena Williams, with everything to play for after mercilessly increasing her lead at the top of the rankings and dismissing every challenge with embarrassing ease (with the exception of her quarter-final against Svetlana Kuznetsova), faces Maria Sharapova, who has been quietly going about her business in the defence of the title which she won last year to complete a Career Grand Slam.
If past history is anything to go by, then expect yet another one-sided final between the two women. Since turning 18, Maria Sharapova has only ever won two sets against Serena Williams, and hasn’t beaten her since the 2004 WTA Tour Championships.
This will be their third meeting in a Grand Slam final match; they are tied 1-all in this category.
Very famously, Sharapova, then aged 17, stunned Williams, who was going for a hat-trick of Wimbledon titles, in the Wimbledon final of 2004; this marked a significant milestone in the Russian’s young career, and it set her up for what would be an ultimately successful career.
However, it would take two-and-a-half years for Williams to get her ultimate revenge, with a crushing 6-1, 6-2 victory in the 2007 Australian Open final.
Of all of the Grand Slam titles in which Serena Williams has ever won, I still refer to that one as the most famous of her victories – not because of the way she mercilessly dominated Sharapova, but the way she had to come back from injury – she entered the Australian Open that year ranked world number 81.
Williams did what Andre Agassi did, reviving her career when all looked dead. In Agassi’s case, he won the 1999 French Open, a title which would cap off his own Career Grand Slam, 18 months after depression and drug issues sent him plummeting to world number 141 by the end of 1997.
In Serena’s case, though, she was coming back from numerous injuries that had plagued her since she won Wimbledon in 2003.
And that wasn’t the only time in which she has revived her career. She regained the Wimbledon crown last year by beating Agnieszka Radwanska in a three-set final, 12 months after her ranking dropped to as low as 175 following a broken, cut foot suffered in the aftermath of her SW19 victory in 2010.
The most recent meeting between these two at a Grand Slam came at Wimbledon 2010, in the fourth round, in a highly-anticipated rematch of the 2004 decider. Sharapova came very close to winning the first set against Williams, before capitulating in straight sets. Serena, of course, went on to win the title before her injury issues struck.
Serena also seems to have a love affair playing against Russians not just in Grand Slam finals but other finals as well. Apart from her well-known dominance of Maria Sharapova in the major tournaments, she has also defeated players such as Svetlana Kuznetsova, Vera Zvonareva and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in championship matches over the years.
This Saturday Serena will be favoured to make it 16 Grand Slam titles (bringing her to within one of Roger Federer’s tally), her 51st career title and yet another victory over Maria Sharapova. A victory in the final will all but bury the demons of last year’s first-round loss deep into the ground.
While it has been all smooth sailing for Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova has had to endure two rocky matches at the business end of the tournament.
After cruising through the early rounds in straight sets, suddenly Sharapova was flailing as she failed to win a game in the first set against Jelena Jankovic. She would recover to win in three.
Then, in her semi-final against Victoria Azarenka, she looked to be heading toward an easy victory when she took the first set 6-1, before losing the second 6-2 and then being challenged in the third.
Nevertheless, she went through in three sets, to deny her Belarusian nemesis a rematch against Williams.
Now, Sharapova will look to try to become the first woman since Justine Henin in 2005-7 to successfully defend her title in Paris. However, the big question will be whether they can finally end her seven-and-a-half-year Serena Williams curse.
Serena Williams has everything to play for, and a victory could increase her lead at the top of the rankings to almost around 3,000 points. This means she probably won’t be caught at the top of the rankings until the end of the year, and she can take a relaxed approach towards the tail-end of the season.
That said, however, Serena will have roughly 5,000 points to defend after the French Open. So she will be challenged.
As for Sharapova, she should prepare to be beaten in straight sets if past history is anything to go by.
Serena Williams in straight sets.