Sharapova's finally found the strength to challenge supremacy of Williams


Few players can match Maria Sharapova's determination and dedication, but the Russian faces the ultimate test today as she attempts to win one of the few prizes to have eluded her. Sharapova has lost in the Miami final four times and her opponent this afternoon has won their last 10 meetings.

Although Serena Williams last won the title in 2008, the world No 1 has an outstanding record at the tournament, with five victories in her seven appearances in the final.

Sharapova, nevertheless, could not be in better form as she prepares for the meeting of the world's top two players, having extended her unbeaten run to 11 matches with her 6-2, 6-1 semi-final victory over Jelena Jankovic. Williams, meanwhile, needed just 65 minutes to crush Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0, 6-3.

As Sharapova made her long recovery from shoulder surgery in 2008 there were fears that she might never recapture her former glories, but the Russian completed her set of Grand Slam titles by winning last year's French Open. Now she is attempting to become only the third woman, after Steffi Graf and Kim Clijsters, to win the Indian Wells and Miami titles back-to-back.

"Winning a title on its own, whether it's here or Indian Wells, is a great achievement," Sharapova said. "To be able to come back from that and recover in just a few days and come back to the final here, it's great. Physically, many years ago I wouldn't have been able to do that, so I'm very proud of the way I have recovered."

Sharapova spent much of her childhood in Florida training at Nick Bollettieri's academy. "It would mean so much to me," she said as she dared to contemplate winning the Miami title. "I love this city. It's the first city I landed in when I came to the United States as a little girl."

Meanwhile Williams, who lives less than two hours' drive away at Palm Beach Gardens, regards Miami as her home tournament. "I'm excited because I'm in the final again," she said. "So many of my friends are here. My family is here. I have to do well here. I can't let my friends down."

Sharapova has lost in the Miami final to four different players: Clijsters in 2005, Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2006, Victoria Azarenka in 2011 and Radwanska last year – and her record against Williams is not a cause for optimism. She beat the American twice in 2004 but has not done so since and has lost the last 13 sets they have played.

"They have been pretty quick matches," Sharapova said. "She's a tremendous athlete, has so much power, and a confident player as well. So if you have a few games where you're not stepping in and not playing the way you should be, she takes really good advantage of it."

Williams expects a tough match but admitted: "I love playing her because she just brings out a good game. I just like the challenge of playing someone who has made history and who is doing so well."

The men's final will be played tomorrow. In last night's semi-finals Andy Murray was facing Richard Gasquet while David Ferrer was taking on Tommy Haas.

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral