Sony Open Tennis
This afternoon they will meet for the 14th time in their career: Serena Williams vs Maria Sharapova. Is this the best possible final for the 2013 Sony Open Tennis Tournament? Probably, as the two contenders are renowned stars of the circuit and outside the court. The returning World No.1, who fought against serious injuries and was even afraid not to ever come back, against the beautiful blonde and terrible on court World No.2 to decide who is going to be the Queen of Crandon Park. It tells a story, doesn't it? Sharapova vs Williams has always been considerer an appealing rivalry between two great champions, but looking at their previous meetings, it doesn't really look like a rivarly has ever existed.
The first time the two ever met was exactly in Miami, 9 years ago. At that time Serena was coming back from an injury that took her out of the second part of the 2003 season, right when she was on top of her game, No.1 dominating women's tennis. After another all-Williams affair in Wimbledon's 2003 Final, the Williams sisters both disappeared from the WTA circuit for more than 7 months. To see Serena coming back was great news for the tennis fans, and she didn't disappoint her fans, taking the title in Miami at her first tournament played. Serena and Maria met in the fourth round, and Williams took the win 6-4 6-3.
In 2004 Maria Sharapova was considered a rising star in Women's tennis. Approaching Wimbledon she was ranked among the top 20 and still wasn't even 18 years old. As great as she could be, none expected her exploit at the Championships that year. The young Russian advanced to the semifinals, then was able to beat World No.5 Lindsay Davenport in three sets to enter the final. Waiting for her was Serena. The American was back in the Top 10 and as the defending Champion playing against a young unexperienced opponent she was the clear favourite to take the title. But as we all know, Sharapova isn't afraid to take on the big stages and she was fearless that day. Maria stunned Serena in two sets 6-1 6-4 to became the third youngest player to ever win Wimbledon in the Open Era.
Even though that year Justin Henin was dominating the game, the Media couldn't stop talking and focusing on the young Russian. Martina Navratilova even said: "she is the best thing that has ever happened to women's tennis". Maria was considered a new Anna Kournikova because of her beauty, with the difference that Sharapova already won a Grand Slam tournament, whereas Anna couldn't get a WTA title. Maria and Serena were going to meet again that year, at the 2004 Season Ending Championships in Los Angeles. That was an akward match. The American started better, winning the first set, but from that moment on something happened. Serena broke again, another injury. Despite the pain she staied on court and tried to win the match. In the third set the American was hitting full power, just to let the rallies finish as soon as possible. Even though she went up 4-0 in the third, Sharapova was able to come back to conquer the title and win for the second time against Serena 4-6 6-2 6-4.
That's when the rivalry started, but apparently ended. Who would have thought that that win in Los Angeles was going to be the last for Maria against Serena in the next 9 years? Not many experts for sure, but that's exactely what happened. As Serena recognisez Sharapova as a threat, she made sure to give it all when she was meeting the Russian. The two played some great matches over the last decade. The most intense was an Australian Open Semifinal in 2005, where Serena fought match points before taking the win 2-6 7-5 8-6. After that, the two met 9 more times, and Sharapova was able to win only one set, in 2008 Charleston's quarterfinal.
As a total, Williams won 11 of their 13 meetings, including the last match they played this year in Doha, where Serena dominated again winning 6-3 6-2. The question now is: can Miami be a turning point? Right where it all started 9 years ago, can Sharapova finally win again against Williams? If she has a chance, it is one of the biggest she has had over the past years. Maria enters the final after taking the title in Indian Wells, looking on top of her game. The Russian seems to have found her serve back and hasn't lost a set to take the BNP Paribas Open and get to the Sony Open Tennis Final. Maria dominated Jelena Jankovic 6-2 6-1 in the semifinals seeming unstoppable. As for Serena, she struggled in the first rounds. The World No.1 even had to fight back down 6-2 4-1 against Dominika Cibulkova in the fourth round. It is a matter of fact though that Serena reserves her best for when she is playing the best. So we saw back the American on full power in her semifinal match against World No.4 Agnieszka Radwanska, where Serena won 6-0 6-3. Despite the win there's still some doubts about Williams condition. Is she playing at her best? Probably not. Would it be enough against the Maria Sharapova that we saw over the past weeks? That's the question that will be given an answer this afternoon. Serena is still the favourite to take the win and her 6th Miami crown, but Maria has a big chance to finally end up Williams' dominance. Serena will be slightly favourite: 53% against 47%.
Who is going to win?
Tennis World Magazine - issue 27
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