Serena Williams vs. Maria Sharapova at French Open on Monday: A lopsided rivalry resumes in Paris
Williams has owned the previous 18 meetings with Sharapova, but this is their first match in over two years
Rivalry? Hardly. There may be a history of bad blood between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, but on the court, it has been no contest. At least for the last 18 meetings.
Entering their 22nd head-to-head matchup on Monday, with a quarterfinal berth on the line at the French Open, Williams has dominated Sharapova like. The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion has won 19 of the 22 meetings overall and the last 18 straight.
Evert-Navratilova this is not. Heck, it's not even Graf-Seles, with Monica Seles winning five of the 15 head-to-head meetings with her longtime nemesis, Steffi Graf.
You have to go back nearly 14 years, to when George W. Bush was still president and "National Treasure" With Nicolas Cage was No. 1 at the U.S. box office, for the last time that Sharapova beat Williams. That was the 2004 WTA Championships, where Sharapova toppled Williams in November. That victory came just a few months after Sharapova stunned Williams, five years her senior, in the 2004 Wimbledon Final for her fist Grand Slam at just 17.
Ever since, it has been all Serena, who owns the 23 Grand Slams to Sharapova's five. Seven of those Williams' wins have come at majors, and three have been on red clay. Nonetheless, this is as compelling as it gets in the women's game, given that Sharapova is the only active women's player other than Williams with a career Grand Slam. Sharapova has also had her greatest major success at Roland Garros, where she has won two of her five slams.
The only arena in which Sharapova has held an advantage over Williams is endorsement money, with Forbes ranking her as the highest-paid female athlete for 11 years straight, starting in 2004, until Serena finally unseated her in 2016.
Sharapova, for her part, has been magnanimous at this French Open when asked about her longtime foil.
"There is a lot of things in her game that she's done much better than I have," Sharapova told the Associated Press. "Numbers don't lie."
But that doesn't mean these two have been sending each other Christmas cards over the years. There have been jabs exchanged through the media over perceived slights and real ones, with the most recent spat involving Sharapova's autobiography published last year.
Williams, on Saturday, called the book "100 percent hearsay" and "disappointing" and especially took issue with a passage that described the post-match locker room after the Wimbledon final in 2004 after Sharapova had pulled off the stunning upset.
An excerpt, aggregated by The Independent:
"Guttural sobs, the sort that make you heave for air, the sort that scares you," Sharapova wrote. "It went on and on. I got out as quickly as I could, but she knew I was there. People often wonder why I have had so much trouble beating Serena; she's owned me in the past 10 years. My record against her is 2-19.
"In analysing this, people talk about Serena's strength, her serve and confidence, how her particular game matches up to my particular game, and, sure there is truth to all of that; but, to me, the real answer was there, in this locker room, where I was changing and she was bawling. I think Serena hated me for being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds, at Wimbledon."
She added: "Not long after the tournament, I heard Serena told a friend – who then told me - 'I will never lose to that little bitch again'."
So, yeah, if you're looking for some intrigue heading into Monday's match in Paris, it's there.
Williams told reporters on Saturday, per the Independent: "I think what happens [in the locker room] should definitely maybe stay there and not necessarily talk about it in a not-so-positive way in a book."
Monday's meeting is the first between the two rivals since the Australian Open quarterfinals in 2016. Since then, Williams has given birth to her first child, daughter Alexis Olympia, after enduring a life-threatening C-section delivery that kept her in the hospital for weeks with complications from blood clots.
And Sharapova has since served a 15-month doping suspension, returning to the tour in April 2017.
"We are both on a comeback, for two totally different reasons, and she's been on her journey for over a year and I just started mine a couple months ago," Williams said, per the AP. "So, you know, it's just something new and different."
But will the result be the same as the previous 18 matches? We'll find out Monday.
How to Watch
- (PR) Serena Williams vs. No. 28 Maria Sharapova (8:15 a.m.)
- TV: Tennis Channel, NBC
- Stream: fuboTV (try for free), Tennis Channel Everywhere
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