French Open final: No looking back for Sharapova

Maria Sharapova. (AFP)

Maria Sharapova. (AFP)

The 26-year-old Russian has the odds stacked against her despite being the defending champion, the second seed and boasting a 12-match unbeaten run at Roland Garros.

On the other side of the net will be a player who is on a career best 30-match winning streak and currently playing some of the finest tennis the women's game has seen in years.

The 31-year-old American's 6-0, 6-1, 46-minute demolition of Sara Errani in the semifinals was frightening in its intensity and French Open organisers will be hoping that this result is not re-produced in a championship match broadcast around the world.

The record books do not provide comfort reading for Sharapova. In 15 previous encounters with Williams, she has won just twice, both in 2004, in the Wimbledon final and at season-ending WTA Championships when she was just 17.

Since then she has managed to win just three sets, the last of those coming in a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 defeat in the Miami final in March. The last match between the two saw Williams win easily 6-1, 6-4 in the final at Madrid last month.

Asked if she was able to bury those depressing statistics deep in the back of her mind, Sharapova replied: "Well, you certainly try to.

"I mean, if I was thinking about it, that wouldn't be a great mindset to go into that match like that.

"But, despite that record and despite me being unsuccessful against her, I believe that I'm happy to be setting up chances to be going out and facing her – someone that's been playing and dominating tennis for almost a year now.
You know, her success has been incredible.

"But going into a French Open final, that doesn't matter. It all starts from zero. You've got to play until the last point, and believe in yourself."

Messy 11 double faults
The Russian's form so far in the tournament has been mainly impressive, starting with four straight sets wins.

But she then lost the first set 0-6 against Jelena Janković in the quarterfinals before gathering herself and she then served up a messy 11 double faults in her semifinal win over Victoria Azarenka.

A repeat of that in the final against Williams would be fatal, she knows.

"Against her, you have to be able to do keep up your level for a long period of time," she said. "That set and a half [in Miami] wasn't enough.

"You know, a letdown here or there is enough to get her back in the match, and that's what she did there."  – AFP

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