It’s not often you’d get excited about the world #451 taking on the world #30. When it’s the French Open 4th round and it’s Serena Willams against Maria Sharapova, it’s a different story.
Sharapova and Williams Both Getting Stronger With Each Match
Maria Sharapova’s annihilation of the classy Karolina Pliskova in the 3rd round took her to 7-1 in her last two tournaments. Most importantly, she has reduced the unforced errors by 38.7% from her previous match against Donna Vekic. 19 unforced errors against Pliskova, shamed the 42 unforced errors against Halep in her recent semifinal defeat in Rome. This is ominous, as it is all that’s stopping Sharapova getting back to her best.
Serena Williams cannot afford the same sluggish start that she had against Barty in round 2. That first set was littered with unforced errors and uncustomary cheap games for Williams’ opponent. Yet, against accomplished clay courter Julia Goerges in round 3, Williams put in an assured display from the first ball. Serena Williams’ straight sets victory, 6-3 6-4, is definitely her most assured performance since her return. It is serving her well this match practice, as she looks sharper with each performance. Against Sharapova she will need to be sharper still.
Williams Owns the Head-to-head 19-2 over Sharapova
It’s difficult to say ignore a head-to-head record when it is so dominantly one-sided. Sharapova’s only two victories came back-to-back in 2004. The first of which was that famous Wimbledon final victory. A little surprisingly, Williams has won all four of the pair’s previous clay court encounters. This includes a French Open final victory in 2013.
That said, Sharapova will be quick to clear this from her mind, as it is a one-off match. They have never met in circumstances like this.
A High Quality Match is in Store
There has never been more reason to focus on the most recent performances. In this case it suggests that a high quality, no-holds-barred match is in store. Look for Serena Williams to go for it on first serve, forcing Sharapova onto the back foot. Serving to the hip of Sharapova looks to be the best strategy to draw out those unforced errors. However, Maria Sharapova will be looking to draw Serena Williams into a game of ping-pong and to subsequently wear her down.
A high quality match is in the offing and don’t be surprised if it goes the full three sets. However, Sharapova should seize the opportunity to eat into this head-to-head chasm and come out on top, in the end.