Serena, Sharapova set to meet
PARIS — If the upcoming French Open showdown between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova provides any of the sort of animus and back-and-forth they manage to stir up away from the court, look out.
During a news conference after both won Saturday to set up the longtime rivals’ fourth-round matchup at Roland Garros, Williams criticized Sharapova’s autobiography as “hearsay” and twice brought up the Russian’s 15-month doping ban.
Producing by far the best performance in her return to Grand Slam tennis — 16 months after her last major tournament and nine months after having a baby — Williams played cleanly and powerfully in a 6-3, 6-4 tour de force against 11th-seeded Julia Goerges that lasted a mere 75 minutes and lacked much in the way of theatrics.
“There is still a ways to go, but it’s moving in the right direction,” said Williams, who made only three unforced errors in the first set, 12 in all. “And I think that as long as it’s moving in the right direction, I know I will get there.”
Sharapova advanced with a similarly lopsided win, 6-2, 6-1 against 2016 U.S. Open runner-up Karolina Pliskova.
Now comes the drama: Williams vs. Sharapova on Monday with a quarterfinal spot at stake.
They have verbally clashed in the past, such as a 2013 public spat about their private lives.
Williams, 36, owns 23 major singles titles. Sharapova, 31, has won five. Williams has won the French Open three times, Sharapova twice. They are the only active women with a career Grand Slam; they are two of six in history to accomplish that. Both have been ranked No. 1.
But the head-to-head history is overwhelmingly in Williams’ favor: She has won 19 of 21 meetings, including 18 in a row.
The last time Sharapova beat Williams was in 2004.
The last time they played was in the 2016 Australian Open quarterfinals, Sharapova’s final appearance before her 15-month drug suspension.
Serena Williams plays a forehand in her match against Julia Georges at the French Open on Saturday.