When the draw was made for the 2018 French Open many fans looked to the potential fourth round clash between long time rivals Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, and after two impressive wins on day seven of the championships, they will meet once again on Monday.
Sharapova Blasts Through Pliskova
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It was the highlight match of the third round as Sharapova went face to face with last year’s semi finalist Karolina Pliskova on court Phillipe Chatrier.
It was expected to be a ding-dong battle between two big hitters, but what we got was a one-sided beatdown by the former two-time French Open champion. Sharapova rushed past Pliskova with the loss of only three games in a 6-1, 6-2 victory in less than an hour.
Despite the once-sided end result, it was Pliskova who started the match the better of the two as the Czech broke in the opening game. It was a short lived lead however as Sharapova would win the next four games to open up a three game lead before breaking again to take the set 6-1.
The second set went much the same way with Sharapova rarely being troubled on her serve. The Russian never faced a break point and quickly won the last five games to seal her place in the second week of the French Open for the first time in three years.
“I think I improved quite a lot in this match from my first two rounds. I had to. I didn’t really have a choice against a player like her,” Sharapova said post match (Source : WTA Tennis)
“I guess these are the types of occasions where you want to play really good, solid tennis against a top-10 player that’s been playing extremely well. When you’re able to deliver that on a Grand Slam stage, I think it makes it extra special.”
Serena Strolls Into Round Four
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With Sharapova already through, it was left to Serena to confirm the match we all anticipated when the draw was made, and the American did not disappoint.
The former World number one defeated Julia Goerges in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4 to seal her berth in the second week of the French open once again and set up a match against Sharapova on Monday.
The first two rounds had been a struggle for the returning Williams, who needed three sets to beat Ashleigh Barty in her last outing, but this match was her best of the tournament so far as she overcame the powerful German in an hour and 15 minutes.
Williams struck first in the opening set to get an early 3-1 lead. From there she held on to her serve nicely, not facing a single break point to seal the set 6-3.
After breaking early in the third, Goerges started to rally a little and the German would finally break the Williams serve to the delight of the crowd. As great champions do though, Serena responded immediately and reestablished her advantage the following game. Serena would then see the match out comfortably to advance to the second week of the French Open.
Can Sharapova Finally Beat Serena?
It has been 14 years, yes 14 years, since Sharapova tasted victory against Serena. It came at the 2004 year end championships which the Russian ran out a 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 winner. She went on to lose the next 18 meetings with many of them being blow outs in favour of Serena. Why is that?
Sharapova is one of the biggest fighters on tour and one of the best pressure players. Many opponents have talked about the constant physical and mental pressure she puts on people, Sharapova is almost like a bully on court with her style. However, against Serena the roles are reversed. Williams is not someone who is going to succumb to the pressure Sharapova puts on her and in fact turns the tables on the Russian, especially with such a reliable serve to fall back on. Bullying Serena on court is almost an impossible task and in this match-up, Wiliams is the one doing the bullying.
This makes their matches feel like they are not in doubt, Serena is going to win and it is just about how easy she will do so. However this meeting feels like it could go the way of Sharapova. Serena is returning to action after a layoff and whilst she has gotten through her matches, she has not looked like the dominant force of old quite yet. Clay is also one of the weaker surfaces for Williams whilst it is one of Sharapova’s best. There is an air of possibility that Sharapova can come through this match, but it will be tough to overcome that mental block
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