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2015 Australian Open women's final preview: Can Sharapova finally challenge the great Serena?

Preview of Saturday's final between Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams.

Maria Sharapova and Serena Wiliams will contest the final

World No. 2 Maria Sharapova will take on World No. 1 and 18-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in the final of the 2015 Australian Open at the Rod Laver Arena on Saturday. Both players are coming on the back of straight sets wins in their respective semi-finals – Sharapova breezed past fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-2 while Williams beat Madison Keys 7-6, 6-2 in her semi-final.

Note: You can watch the match live on Sony Liv Sports here.

Serena leads the head-to-head count 16-2 and hasn't lost to the Russian since 2004.

Match Time: 14:00 IST

Sharapova confident regardless of win-loss record

Speaking ahead of the game, Sharapova said that she feels confident ahead of a big game like a Grand Slam final, regardless of the kind of record she has against her opponent. 

"I think my confidence should be pretty high going into a final of a Grand Slam, no matter who I'm facing and whether I've had a terrible record - to say the least - against someone. It doesn't matter. I got there for a reason. I belong in that spot. I will do everything I can to get the title,” the 27-year-old said.

Williams too praised the Russian for the way she has played in the tournament and said that neither player has anything to lose leading into the match.

"Maria is playing great. She's in the tournament only because she's a fighter and only because she refuses to give up. So it's a new match. She has nothing to lose, once again. She has only things to gain. And I feel that way too,” she said.

This will also be the first instance since 2004 where the two top-ranked players will compete in a final at Melbourne Park.

Maria Sharapova – Road to the final

First round: Petra Martic: 6-4, 6-1                                                            

Second round: Alexandra Panova: 6-4, 4-6, 7-5                                    

Third round: Zarina Diyas: 6-1, 6-1                                                          

Fourth round: Shuai Peng: 6-3, 6-0                                                             

Quarters: Eugenie Bouchard: 6-3, 6-2                                                   

Semis: Ekaterina Makarova: 6-3, 6-2                                            

Serena Williams – Road to the final

First round: Alison Van Uytvanck: 6-0, 6-4                                          

Second round: Vera Zvonareva: 7-5, 6-0

Third round: Elina Svitolina: 4-6, 6-2, 6-0

Fourth round: Garbiñe Muguruza: 2-6, 6-3, 6-2

Quarters: Dominika Cibulková: 6-2, 6-2

Semis: Madison Keys: 7-6, 6-2

Looking to end two very different droughts

As has been well-documented, Sharapova has not defeated Serena in more than a decade. The last time the Russian managed to upstage the current World No. 1 was back in 2004, at the year-end championships. Since then, the younger Williams has laid the woodwork on Sharapova 15 straight times, dropping only three sets in the process.

The Russian would be desperately hoping to halt this infamous losing streak, and there can’t be a better stage than a Grand Slam final to do that. Sharapova would have to be on her game to have any chance of winning though; while she has been sharp in her last few matches here in Melbourne, another off-day like the one she had against Panova in the second round would spell instant doom for her against the 18-time Slam champion.

On the other hand, Serena hasn’t won the Australian Open since 2010, which is by far her longest drought since she won her first title here, back in 2003. The Australian Open used to be the American’s most rewarding tournament, but that has changed in recent years, as a combination of bad play and bad luck has deprived her of the title. The World No. 1 would be raring to correct that record, and although she has been suffering from some kind of throat infection over the past two days, she will be the favourite to win her 19th Major title tomorrow.

Will history repeat itself in Melbourne, or will Sharapova finally make her rivalry with Serena a little more competitive? Tomorrow’s final will answer all those questions, and more.

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