Maria Sharapova: Forget history, I’m gunning for Serena Williams in French Open final


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The Independent Online

It is the sort of head-to-head record that might send a player on to the court believing the match was already lost, but Maria Sharapova insisted yesterday that she would not be thinking about the past when she faces Serena Williams in the final of the French Open here this afternoon.

Williams, the world No 1, has beaten Sharapova 12 times in a row since the Russian’s last victory over the American nine years ago. In their last seven meetings Sharapova has won just one set, in the final at Miami three months ago.

The world No 2, nevertheless,  says that history will count for  nothing today.

“Going into a French Open final, that doesn’t matter,” she said. “It all starts from zero. You’ve got to play until the last point, and believe  in yourself.”

Would Sharapova attempt to block that head-to-head record from her mind today? “You certainly try to,” she said. “If I was thinking about it, that wouldn’t be a great mindset to go into a match like that.

“Despite that record and despite me being unsuccessful against her, I’m happy to be setting up chances to go out and face someone who has been dominating tennis for almost a year now. Her success has been incredible.”

She added: “No matter how good she’s playing, you also have to give yourself a bit of credit for getting to that point and doing a few things right to be at that stage and giving yourself an opportunity. Whether you take it, that’s another story, though I’ll obviously be determined.”

Sharapova has a formidable record of her own over the last 12 months. The world No 2 won her first French Open last year, completing her set of Grand Slam titles, and has reached the quarter-finals or better of every tournament she has played since last summer’s Wimbledon.

Her record, nevertheless, pales into insignificance besides Williams’. The 31-year-old American, who is attempting to become the oldest female champion here in the Open era, has lost only three matches since her shocking defeat in the first round at Roland Garros 12 months ago and is currently on a career-best run of 30 wins in a row.

In the semi-finals she blew Italian Sara Errani off the court in 46 minutes for the loss of only one game.

Nor does Sharapova take any solace from her recent performance against Williams in Miami, pointing out that she had not sustained her level of  performance for long enough.

“Against her, you have to be able to do that for a longer period of time,” Sharapova said.

“That set and a half wasn’t enough. A let-down here or there is enough to get her back in the match, and that’s what she did there.”

Today will be the first time the world’s top two women have met in a Grand Slam final for nine years and the first time they have done so here since 1995. Those statistics might hint that we could be in for a classic, but the more recent evidence suggests that the final could be all too one-sided.

Tale of the tape: S Williams v Sharapova

31 Age 26

Saginaw, Michigan, US Birthplace Nygan, Russia

5ft 9in Height 6ft 2in

11st Weight 9.4st

Right Plays Right

1995 Turned pro 2001

1 World ranking 2

£28.67m Career earnings £16.5m

W590 L110 Career record W502 L119

51 (15) Career titles (Slams) 29 (4)

13 wins Head-to-head 2 wins

Winner, 2002 French Open best Winner, 2012