June 4, 2018
Serena Williams versus Maria Sharapova. Today’s showdown makes a mockery of people who try to tell us that women’s tennis can’t compare to the men’s game. That it isn’t as exciting somehow, that it lacks the thrill.
Well try telling that to the millions around the world who cannot wait to see Serena slug it out with Maria at Roland Garros today.
It is one of the biggest tennis matches in years – whether we’re talking men or women.
There is a burning rivalry between the two women, reignited recently by Sharapova’s autobiography.
But there is much more. Serena has just come back from the tennis version of maternity leave. She is showing great fight and getting back to something like her best. But she isn’t there yet.
Sharapova, on the other hand, is playing some of the best tennis of her life. She is now fitter than she has been for years, having previously been forced to take her own lengthy time out for a doping ban.
So here’s the intriguing thing. Even though Williams has won the last eighteen matches between the women, Sharapova starts favourite.
If Serena wins, it will be one of the greatest feats by a mother in the history of sport. And make no mistake, Williams has the fighting spirit and the dislike for Sharapova required to pull off the impossible.
Maria claims that Williams wins their clashes because the American has always hated her, ever since Sharapova beat her to win Wimbledon back in 2004.
The Russian also reckons Serena is angry because Maria saw her cry in the locker room.
Serena has recently replied with dignity, claiming that Sharapova’s book is “one hundred per cent heresay” where it deals with Williams, though she admits she has cried many times after defeat and that shows her passion for the game.
She wishes that Sharapova had observed the unwritten rule that what goes on in the locker room stays in the locker room.
Maria would argue that she had a right to reveal the full story behind her opponent’s motivations, as she personally understood them.
Add to the equation the fact that Serena was linked with Grigor Dimitrov before the Bulgarian began to go out with Sharapova, a romance that lasted several years. There seems to be no end to the rivalry.
There could hardly be more motivation for either woman.
Sharapova is desperate to overturn that 18-match losing streak against her nemesis – and she will never have a better opportunity.
Williams, you sense, is desperate to silence Sharapova after her autobiographical revelations. But even more desperate to show she is well and truly back at the top, after a difficult childbirth and a long and tricky return to fitness.
The sporting world cannot wait for this one.
Men’s tennis superior to the women’s game? Sorry, the men’s game has no current rivalry to match this grudge. Not with the same needle.
As they fight it out with raw aggression in their eyes today, marvel at the gladiatorial intensity and passion.
The women are fantastic. They are brutal. They deserve their place alongside the men every time.