Sharapova confident she can down nemesis Williams in Australian Open final
IT must be an odd feeling to experience the high of reaching another Grand Slam final, to be so close to glory, and yet, when you see who is on the other side of the net, still so far away.
Maria Sharapova would never admit that is what was in her head after world number one Serena Williams held off rising American Madison Keys in the second semi-final to once again be blocking her path.
But having not beaten Williams since the Wimbledon final of 2004 — a run which includes two Grand Slam finals — Sharapova must fear the worst.
“My confidence should be pretty high going into a final of a Grand Slam no matter who I am facing and whether I have had a terrible record against someone,” she said after her 6-2, 6-3 win over fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova yesterday. “I got there for a reason. I belong in that spot. I will do everything I can to get the title.”
But perhaps not. Having survived two match points in the second round, the five-times Grand Slam champion may just believe this one was written in the stars, that finally she can get past Williams to claim a second Australian Open crown.
But to do that, even though Williams has been struggling to shake off a virus, Sharapova is going to have to produce one of the best performances of her career — and she knows it.
Sharapova said: “Her power and her aggressiveness have always made me a little bit too aggressive, maybe going for a little bit more than I had to. She is great at making players hit that shot that you do not necessarily have to go for. It has been a really difficult match-up for me — but I am a competitor. I will go out and I will do everything I can to try to change that result around.”
Doing it is going to be another matter, not least since victory for Williams would give her a 19th Grand Slam, taking her past Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert in the all-time list. A five-time champion in Australia, Williams had not been beyond the quarter-finals in each of the past three years.
“I have won this tournament several times,” said Williams after beating teenager Keys 7-6, 6-2. “I do not have to go out there and have another title.
“I want it but it is not life or death for me. I think that helps me relax.
“She absolutely has nothing to lose and I have nothing to lose, so it will be fun.”