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French Open 2018: All eyes on Serena Williams vs Maria Sharapova fourth round clash

454   //    04 Jun 2018, 13:16 IST

serena sharapova
Maria Sharapova (left) and Serena Williams

When two Career Slammers and former World No. 1s meet, it is sure to become the cynosure of all eyes. The Serena Williams vs Maria Sharapova fourth round duel will thus be the biggest match to watch on Monday at the French Open 2018 in Paris.

This will be the 22nd meeting between two women, who have been able to etch their names on all the four Major trophies of tennis and who have had a long-standing rivalry, on-court and, sometimes, off-court as well. While Williams has triumphed at Roland Garros thrice, Sharapova has found success twice.

Serena has overwhelmed their on-court rivalry completely, denying the Russian a win since 2004. In 21 meetings, the American has a staggering 19 wins. Sharapova has won just a solitary set in their last 14 encounters.

Under normal circumstances, predicting a winner would have been as easy as a child’s play. But a lot has happened in both their lives in the last couple of years.

The 36-year-old Serena is playing a Grand Slam for the first time since giving birth to her daughter in September, and 16 months since her run to the title at the 2017 Australian Open. Her 31-year-old rival is playing in Paris for the first time since returning from a 15-month drug suspension.

It is, however, the 28th seeded Russian, who looks the better of the two as far as recent results and form are considered. Having reunited with former mentor, Thomas Hogstedt, Sharapova seems to be thriving on the terre battue again, akin to the manner she did during her heyday.

With a quarter-final in Madrid and a semi-final in Rome, she has hit form just at the right time. Her first round win at the French Open did involve a laborious effort, but since then, she has just got better and better.

She demolished the big-serving sixth seed and Stuttgart champion Karolina Pliskova, dropping just three games.

This just could be Sharapova’s brightest chance to get that elusive third career win over her old American rival.

Serena hasn’t had any match play on clay prior to the French Open. This is her first tournament since her Miami Open outing ended in a disappointing first round loss.

For the first time in over a decade, the unranked and unseeded Williams goes into this clash as the underdog.

Having said that, Serena’s lack of match play hardly ever matters, since she makes up for it with her staunch determination. And that has led her to slowly finding her feet on the red dirt. The new mother is gradually shaking off the rust and getting attuned to the rigours of playing seven rounds in a Slam again.

And that is validated by her 6-3, 6-4 crushing of the 11th seeded Julia Georges. In the first set in that tussle, Williams made just three unforced errors, finishing with a total of 12.

If she manages to keep it that clean and pristine, chances are that Sharapova will have to endure the same heartbreak that she has in her last 18 matches.

Whatever be the outcome, there’s absolutely no doubt about one thing. This will be the most-awaited Serena vs Sharapova clash in years.

Here’s all the information you need to know about this match-up:

Head-to-head: Williams leads 19-2

Last meeting: Serena def Sharapova 6-4, 6-1 at the 2016 Australian Open quarter-finals

Last Sharapova win: 2004 WTA Championships final (Sharapova def Williams 4-6, 6-2, 6-4)

Today’s schedule of the match: Fourth on Court Philippe-Chatrier, expected to be around 6.30-7pm IST

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A freelance journalist based in Kolkata who is a diehard Rafael Nadal fan. She is also extremely passionate about India’s progress in sports and hopes to throw light on India’s unsung sports heroes through her articles. When not screaming her lungs out in support of her favourite sports stars, she can be seen reading, watching movies or immersed in planning her next travel destination!
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