There are those who subscribe to the theory that the law of averages will one day have to align with Maria Sharapova when she goes up against Serena Williams. Scientists will probably approve that kind of thinking. For those folks the upcoming Australian Open final between La Serena – the world No. 1 – and Miss Maria – the world No. 2 – is just the perfect place for luck to finally shine on Sharapova.
Why not believe? Surely no one could refute that Maria deserves a turn. They’ve played 18 times overall and she’s only won twice. Their first three outings all took place in 2004 – Serena won the first meeting at Miami, but then Maria scored the next two, in the Wimbledon final and the WTA Final final. That WTA Final final date – November 15, 2004 – is etched in both players minds even more than a decade later. That was the last time that Maria posted a victory against Serena: 15 matches have taken place since and La Serena’s surrendered all of three sets to the Russian-based American. OUCH!
So back to that why not believe question.
There are many reasons not to anticipate Sharapova capturing a second Australian Open title and sixth overall Grand Slam victory. Just as they’re are many reasons to expect Williams to win a sixth Australian Open trophy and 19th overall Grand Slam title.
Sharapova Lowdown: She’s a fighter to the finish. No matter what position she’s in during a match she never gives up. Recent proof was her escape of two match points while playing Russian qualifier Alexandra Panova in the second round. But it’s no secret that Serena makes Maria nervous. She knows that her serve doesn’t compare and that as heavy as her shots can be and aggressive as she becomes against other players, Williams has more power and better offense. Maria’s usual reaction to Serena is to step it up and try to be even more aggressive, which results in the execution of more unforced errors. Sharapova will have to hold her nerve better to succeed. It’s not an impossibility but it won’t be easy.
Williams Lowdown: Serena is not deaf and she’s heard all the talk that most believe she’s the greatest to ever play the game. And it isn’t idle chatter to her, she believes it with all her heart. Her game is bigger and better than Maria’s and everyone else’s. Yes, we’ve seen her suffer a few painful losses, but not too many. At the Grand Slam final level she’s won 18 of 22 final appearances. Where she could offer Maria an opening is if she gets off to one of her frequent sluggish starts. Usually Serena manages to right the ship, but every so often she’ll become the victim and it’s tougher to play from behind against Sharapova. That said, Serena would hate to lose to Maria – she prefers their rivalry to continue on it’s lop-sided course.
Bottom Line: Maria Sharapova is pretty much a better player than every player in the game except for Serena Williams. And that fact is not likely to change on Saturday – it could, but probably won’t happen. And for that reason expect La Serena to move ahead of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on the list of how many Grand Slam titles owned.