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.

Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor