Serena Williams vs Maria Sharapova – Revisiting epic clashes among Tennis queens
In a move that was disheartening to tennis fans all over the world, 23-time grand slam winner Serena Williams pulled out of her match with Maria Sharapova – the epic clash due to happen on the 4th of June as a part of the ongoing Roland Garros’(French Open) round of 16. The American, who recently returned to tennis after giving birth to her first child, cited a pectoral injury that affected her serve as the reason for her withdrawal.
She addressed the press conference a while before the match was scheduled to begin and stated, “I unfortunately have been having some issues with my pec, my pec muscle, and has unfortunately been getting worse to the point where right now I can’t actually serve, and it’s kind of hard to play when I can’t physically serve.”
This show-stopping injury initially started to trouble her in her singles’ match against Julia Goerges, and it really aggravated and showed itself when Serena played the doubles’ match along with her sister Venus.
Sharapova, who has only won twice against Williams in a total of 21 matches, also issued a response, saying “ I was looking forward to my match against Serena today and am disappointed that she had to withdraw. I wish her a speedy recovery and hope she returns to the tour soon.” Even though she technically ‘won’ this round, she would certainly miss playing this match, because it was arguably her best chance to beat the American (with her just coming back from child birth), which she hasn’t been able to since 2004.
But the people who will miss this match-up the most are the fans of both the players. Both Serena and Sharapova are coming back to play after considerable hiatuses; Maria after her 15 month dope ban and Williams after giving birth to her first child. And although the rivalry has been quite one-sided historically, these are two of the best players that tennis has to offer. Here are five of their previous matches that showed the world their mettle.
2004 Wimbledon Women’s Singles’ Final
At one glance, it seemed like an extremely one sided affair. It was a match between reigning champion Serena Williams and a 17-year-old girl who had somehow made it to this final. But from the very beginning of the match, Sharapova’s fearless approach was visible. After both won a game each, Williams just couldn’t match her opponent’s aggression and didn’t win a match until the second set commenced, and went on to lose 6-1, 6-4. It was almost like the roles had been reversed, with Sharapova playing with an aggression and power that was usually seen in Serena, and Serena not being able to match her blows. Williams later commented that “I don’t believe I played the Wimbledon final,” Serena said at the time. “I don’t know who it was but that was someone else. I wasn’t at Wimbledon this year.”
2004 WTA Championship Final
Serena’s misery continued that year when she met with Sharapova once again in the finals of the WTA Championship later that year. She had suffered an injury ridden run-up to this year, and it showed especially in this match, in which she looked particularly worn. After being able to fight and take the first set 6-4, she succumbed to a young and energetic Sharapova once again and lost the next two sets 6-2 and 6-4.
2007 Australian Open Final
This time around, Serena Williams was the dark horse. Returning from a year that was once again, ridden with injuries, she wasn’t expected to even make it to the final, and Sharapova was a clear favourite. But Serena showed her intent at the very beginning by winning the first game with a dominating ace. Then she continued to prolong Sharapova’s misery by winning that set 6-1 and the next one 6-2. Upon winning the second set, she rolled down on the floor and punched the air excitedly, and said that she wanted to dedicate the win to her sister Yetunde Prince, who lost her life in a Los Angeles shooting in 2003.
2012 WTA Championship
Eight years ago, an energetic Sharapova had beaten a worn Williams at this stage to win the WTA Championship. But a lot had changed since then. That victory was Sharapova’s last against Williams, and the odds had been consistently stacked up against her since then. What followed was an expected and easy win for Williams, who had won three major titles that year – the US Open, Wimbledon and the Olympics. Maria, who was then ranked ahead of Serena, was no match for her thunderous serves and succumbed 6-4, 6-3. 2012 was an extremely special year for Serena, who after facing a career threatening injury in 2010 and 2011, came back to win four major titles and earn the nickname ‘Serena-slam’.
2015 Australia Open Final
Another major tournament and another match up between both these players. This time was particularly special for Serena, because if she won this she would have won 19 grand slam titles, which was second only to Steffi Graf in terms of most titles won (who she has now surpassed with 23 titles). In the first set, she cruised to a win defeating Maria 6-3, but in the second set Maria put up a great fight to level the games at 6-6. A game of much intensity followed, but was eventually won by Serena.
Even though Serena has won 19 times and it has been 14 years since Maria won, the matches between these two have always been iconic. Both players are of the highest calibre, and almost always treat the audience to memorable matches, often with nail biting finishes. We certainly hope that Serena Williams has a speedy recovery and can lock horns with Maria Sharapova soon.