— WTA (@WTA) July 8, 2015
Serena Williams vs. Maria Sharapova
Their head-to-head record is obviously lopsided with Serena leading 17-2. Serena has not lost to Maria since the fall of 2004. However, as Forbes recently pointed out, Sharapova and Williams are the two highest paid female athletes in the world. Both players have won a career Grand Slam. They also have shared history. Sharapova won her first Grand Slam title by upending Serena Williams in straight sets in 2004. Serena struggled to beat Sharapova in the semifinal round of the 2005 Australian Open, but since then has generally dominated Sharapova. These two well-known and decorated tennis champions clash with a spot in the Wimbledon final on the line.
Can Sharapova Win?
This is a reasonable question given Sharapova is on the wrong end of a 16 match losing streak that stretches over one decade. Sharapova hits the ball cleanly and can take control of a point with her serve and with her return. When Sharapova is on the defensive her movement and occasional double faulting fits become major liabilities. Vika pushes Serena in part because in terms of athletic prowess on a tennis court Azarenka has few peers. Serena tends to beat Vika because her mechanics are better and more reliable than Azarenka’s. The opposite is true in Serena’s rivalry with Sharapova. Both players hit the ball quite cleanly and have excellent mechanics. Serena is able to go from defense to offense, to scramble. and to improvise on court in ways Sharapova cannot.
For Sharapova to win, she will have to serve well and avoid double faults or meatball second serves. Serena will send weak serves back with interest. Sharapova will have to return well, and hit with authority when she has an advantageous position during a point. Sharapova will also have to scramble and improvise better than she usually does. That is a long list of things to do for Sharapova to win. She can do it as she played Serena quite tough in Melbourne. Still, she lost in straight sets.
Why Serena Will Win
Serena can win this match two ways. She can dictate play and force Sharapova to play defensive tennis. Serena can also absorb Sharapova’s offense and counter-punch often enough to reverse the advantage in many points. I think Serena wins by doing a combination of these things. Sharapova is playing well enough that I don’t think Maria will just be blasted off of the court. Still, Serena has many paths to victory whereas Sharapova’s path to the final is quite narrow. Finally, Serena has won four times as many Grand Slam titles than Maria Sharapova, but she earns less money due to an endorsement discrepancy. I think Serena is motivated to not play a flat match against Sharapova as she did in 2004.
Serena Williams d. Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-4