Whenever the Tennis world gears up for a Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova showdown, I can’t help but compare it to a Las Vegas title fight.
The media and public love the hype so when these two queens of tennis do battle, everyone goes into a total frenzy.
Let us take a moment, step away from all the pre-match hype and concentrate on the facts.
These two ladies have played each other 21 times, with Serena winning 19 of their matches.
Maria’s only two victories came in 2004, which included the Wimbledon Ladies title.
Only four of their matches have gone the full distance, with Maria winning one of those.
Maria Sharapova returned from a 15 month suspension in April last year. She failed to get a wild card for the French Open and missed Wimbledon due to injury. She reached the fourth round at the US Open and the third round at the Australian Open. She won the Tianjin Open title in October last year.
Serena Williams won her record breaking 23rd Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January last year. She announced on 19 April 2017 (on Maria Sharapova’s birthday) that she was eight weeks pregnant and would be taking the rest of the season off to prepare for the birth of her first child. The world did the maths, calculated that Serena was about eight weeks pregnant when she won the Australian Open title and elevated her even further. Serena gave birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian on 1 September 2017. She played an exhibition match at the end of the year, and leading up to the French Open, only competed in two tournaments, each with earlyish exits. Serena, on her own terms, decided to delay her return to tennis as she wanted to be playing at her level and not just playing.
Where do the odds lie?
Sharapova has had more match play than Serena in the past twelve months.
Against most odds, she defeated Karolina Pliskova yesterday in what turned out to be a very disappointing match for Pliskova. For Sharapova, her performance was clinical and one needs to wonder if this was “that” match of the French Open for her?
Serena’s toughest match so far, and one that could have easily gone either way, was the second round clash against Ashleigh Barty.
Mentally, Serena will always have the edge over Maria and has often stated that Maria brings out the best in her during their matches.
Should Maria win, irrespective of Serena not playing at 100% yet, it will be a great mental victory for her.
If Serena wins, the rest of the Ladies draw should just concede the title to her as she will undoubtedly be elevated to the favourite, despite being unseeded.
If I was a vendor at the French Open, I would arrive with a boxful of earplugs tomorrow, as the spectactors are surely going to need them for this match, which is scheduled to start at 11h00.
It’s going to be loud, with lots of fist pumps and steely glares, but most of all, let us hope it is going to go down as one of the most memorable matches in not only this year’s tournament, but in the history of Ladies tennis.