Sharapova ready to 'bring it' in potential Serena clash
Maria Sharapova would relish the opportunity to take on Serena Williams at the French Open, stating that her hard work allows her to "bring it" in such high-profile encounters.
Former world number one Sharapova booked her place in the fourth round at Roland Garros with a straight-sets defeat of Karolina Pliskova, potentially setting up a clash with fellow great Williams if she can overcome Julia Goerges.
While Sharapova has spoken in the past of her struggles against Williams, who she has beaten only twice on the WTA Tour, she is in confident mood after a fine start to her campaign in Paris.
"I think there are a lot of things in [Serena's] game that she's done much better than I have," the Russian told a news conference. "The records certainly don't elaborate on that - numbers don't lie.
"But, of course, I came into Europe and Stuttgart with not a great record, not playing great tennis with a lot of injuries, and have been able to turn that around a little bit.
"I have been able to put myself in this position of playing better tennis. That's what I continue to work for, of course. You don't put those hours on the back courts in Bradenton, Florida to just show up at events like this and not bring it."
Special to be back here, Paris. Love playing in front of you pic.twitter.com/Kg5Q7W9NU6— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) June 1, 2018
"Any time you play against Serena, you know what you're up against. You know the challenge that is upon you," she continued.
"Despite the record that I have against her, I always look forward to coming out on the court and competing against the best player. I will look forward to doing that if she wins this one."
There is a great mutual respect between the pair, as both Sharapova and Williams have made successful ventures into business and fashion, but the 31-year-old insists that is only possible if they continue to star on the court.
"Everything that we have been able to achieve off the court, I have never really seen it as a competition," she said.
"I think if you add all the things that we're able to do in our lives and the amounts of people that we're able to inspire from our stories, from our background, where we came from, what we have been able to do outside the sport, in our own ways, I think that is very inspiring.
"I'm inspired a lot by what she's been able to do, to continue. We have known that the driving force behind this machine of business, of fashion, is performance and our achievement on the court.
"I think what speaks for itself is that desire to keep doing that and the knowledge that we have that - that is still the driving force for everything we do.
"Because there is nothing, ultimately nothing, more inspiring than coming out on the court and - whether you don't feel great or you're having the best day - to have to try to win a match after all we have already achieved."