Big Serena test for Sharapova

Big Serena test for Sharapova

Big Serena test for Sharapova

Serena Williams gives pet names to her various character traits whereas Maria Sharapova, who will try to prevent the American claiming a 16th grand slam title in Saturday’s French Open final, usually sticks rigidly to the ice maiden routine.

Defending champion Sharapova has been more beauty or beast in the last couple of rounds, however, mixing brilliance with woeful interludes, with aces and winners often being matched by doubles faults and wild errors.

The “good” Maria, the one that served 12 aces against Victoria Azarenka in Thursday’s semifinals, will have to show up against Williams if she is to stand any chance of preventing the world number one lifting the Suzanne Lenglen Cup 11 years after her first triumph.

Second seed Sharapova needs to produce an almost flawless display if she is to become the first woman to retain her Paris title since Justine Henin in 2007.

While American Serena dropped only a set en route to the final and annihilated Saran Errani 6-0, 6-1 in the semifinal, four-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova survived a 6-0 drubbing in the first set of her quarterfinal with Jelena Jankovic and then needed more than two hours to go through the semis, grinding past Azarenka in an error-strewn clash.

“If Sharapova serves well, there will be a contest,” Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena’s coach, said. “Sharapova moves better (on clay) but not well enough yet.” Mouratoglou believes Williams, who is on a 30-match winning streak, has her fate firmly in her own hands after prevailing in all 12 of their matches since the 2004 Tour finals.

“Serena will start with a psychological advantage, for sure. The result will not depend on Sharapova but on Serena,” he added.  Sharapova, however, clings to the notion that the final will start at 0-0. “I’d be lying if (that record) doesn’t bother me, obviously,” the Russian said. “Whatever I did in the past hasn’t worked, so I’ll have to try to do something different.

“Going into a French Open final, that (record) doesn't matter. It all starts from zero.”
Serena agreed, saying: “It’s a different time, a different era, just a different match.”