PARIS, 7 JUNE: Maria Sharapova was not even an adult the last time she beat Serena Williams, it was that long ago.
It was at the WTA Championships and Sharapova was 17. Nearly nine years later, she now finds herself playing to deny Williams her 16th Grand Slam title in the French Open final on Saturday, where the Russian has to overcome overwhelming odds to defend her title.
Williams has won 13 of her 15 matches against Sharapova and has won their last 12 matches on all surfaces. "Well, I’d be lying if it doesn’t bother me," Sharapova said.
"I don’t think that it would be a pretty competitive statement if I said (it) didn’t. I would love to change that around." Comparing Thursday’s semifinals, the odds of that happening look extremely thin. Williams crushed last year’s finalist Sara Errani 6-0, 6-1, spending nearly a third of the time on court than Sharapova did in her gritty 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 win against Victoria Azarenka. "I have never played Maria here," said Williams, who won her only Roland Garros title 11 years ago when she beat sister Venus in the final. "We’re both really excited to be this far."
Sharapova beat Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon final, but in their past 11 matches has won a measly total of two sets. One of those was in the final at Key Biscayne, Florida, in March. But you have to go back to April 2008 for the one before.
"Whatever I did in the past hasn’t worked, so I’ll have to try to do something different and hopefully it will," the 26-year-old Sharapova said. "I don’t feel like I have taken my chances and opportunities."The pair dominate the current WTA rankings and seedings, No. 1 Williams and No. 2 Sharapova.
Williams’ winning streak stands at 30 matches — the longest single-season streak on tour since 2000 — and is 20-3 in major semifinals. "She’s playing some of the best tennis of her career," Sharapova said. The 31-year-old Williams has other factors working in her favour too.