Serena Williams vs. Maria Sharapova
On one hand, each player is a bit like Elvis in the tennis world. Their first name suffices for everyone to know which player is being referenced. Also, each has won a career Grand Slam, been ranked #1, and had Olympic success. One the other hand, Serena Williams is a 5-time Australian Open champion who has beaten Maria Sharapova 15 consecutive times and leads their head-to-head series 16-2. Is there any reason to preview this match?
I don’t think this will happen again
Maria Sharapova’s game is predicated on taking over points early with a powerful serve or a deep return. Serena upsets this desired pattern from Sharapova more often than any player on tour. First of all, Serena’s serve is big enough that Sharapova gets to dictate fewer points when returning serve. Secondly, Serena can absorb big shots from Sharapova and send them back with interest. Serena’s ability to go from defense to offense forces Sharapova to then play defensive tennis more often than she would like to. It is a bad match-up for Sharapova.
Still, Sharapova is moving as well as I have ever seen her move in this event. Can she realistically beat a player she has not beaten in over 10 years? Probably not, but I think Sharapova is moving well and serving well. In the course of this match, my guess is Serena’s ability to force Sharapova to change directions and scramble will over time be a difference. I do think Sharapova’s team has been looking for ways to make this match-up more favorable, but I also think this will ultimately not be enough. Serena tends to close out events well and Grand Slam #19 is there for the taking.
I see it playing out more like this. Same result – but a close scoreline
My Prediction: Serna Williams d. Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-4