Serena Williams vs Maria Sharapova - US Open 2019 - First Round - Preview and Prediction
The final grand slam of the year- US Open kickstarts in New York with a blockbuster clash between two of the biggest superstars of the game. The organizers sent the fans into a tizzy when they announced the draw and the whole world was stunned to see this great rivalry continuing in the first round itself.
The head to head record between 23-time grand slam champion - Serena Williams and the five-time grand-slam champion - Maria Sharapova is a bit one-sided as Serena leads it with 19 wins and just three losses.
It still is a historic rivalry as a lot of bad blood has brewed between the two players since their first encounter at the Miami Masters in 2004. Sharapova lost her first-ever meeting against Serena 6-4 6-3. But, she came back strongly to beat her back not once but twice in the Wimbledon finals and the WTA Finals in 2004. That was the year when Sharapova shot into the limelight as a talented Russian teenager capable of beating the top players in big tournaments. She also grabbed a lot of lucrative endorsements in the process.
After those two tough losses, the rivalry turned upside down when Serena Williams went on a winning spree clinching 18 matches in a row with only three matches going to the deciding set. Sharapova did not have any answers to Serena's powerful game without any mistakes. Many felt that Sharapova had a mental block whenever she faced Serena.
They have played in almost all the biggest tournaments in the world- Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, Olympics, WTA Finals, Miami Masters, Madrid Masters and the Doha Open. However, both of them are playing in the US Open against each other for the first time. It is also the first time that they are clashing in the first round of a tournament.
Coming into the match, Serena will keep in the mind her unfortunate outburst against the chair umpire - Carlos Ramos in the US Open- 2018 finals which made her lose focus in the crucial match and she ultimately paved the path for Noami Osaka to win her first slam. Serena was fined heavily for different offences like racket smashing and verbal abuse and everyone was talking about her tirade against the umpire instead of praising Osaka's stupendous performance winning her first grand slam in the tense atmosphere.
Serena has been in good form this year reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals where a small niggle made her lose her match against Pliskova from a winning position. She retired hurt unfortunately due to injuries in the round of 32- Indian Wells, Miami Open, Rome Open and Rogers Cup finals against Muguruza, Wang, Venus, and Andreescu respectively.
A loss to her compatriot, Sofia Kenin, in the third round of the French Open was an unexpected one. She bounced back strongly to reach the Wimbledon finals only to lose in just 55 minutes to Simona Halep 6-2 6-2. Another retirement followed in the Rogers Cup finals against the Brianca Andreescu - who has had a bright year winning two big tournaments- Indian Wells and Rogers Cup. She made a good move by opting out of the Cincinnati Open as she was not fully fit.
On the other hand, Maria Sharapova has faced every adverse circumstance in her career with tremendous mental strength. A 15-month doping ban, shoulder injury and last-minute pullouts in tournaments she was planning to play left her with no practice as well as kept her out of competitive tennis for a long time.
She started the year retiring hurt in the Shenzhen Open quarterfinals against Sabalenka. Barty edged her in a thrilling three-set in the fourth round of the Australian Open. She retired hurt in the St Petersburg Open held in her home country. Kerber thrashed her 6-2 6-3 in a ruthless performance in the round of 16- Mallorca Open.
Her form went down as she retired again in the Wimbledon- first round against Pauline Parmentier. Kontaveit and Barty beat her in the American hard-court tournaments- Rogers Cup and Cincinnati Open.
Both Serena and Sharapova are battling sloppy form and recovery from injuries ahead of this important match.
Sharapova last won a set against Serena six years ago in Miami. Serena holds the aces as she has defeated good players such as Halep, Azarenka, and Osaka this year. Sharapova has some wins against top players like Wozniacki and Riske.
The crowd will be divided between the American- Serena who has been the leader of women's tennis and the Russian- Sharapova who has made America her home after starting her professional career.
A packed house under the lights along with an electric atmosphere will make this match even better.
It is not just a physical battle but a mental one as well. Serena edges Sharapova slightly in the mental battle. Sharapova needs to get her returns spot on with minimum unforced errors if she wants to take this match down to the wire.
The big match will definitely bring out the best in both the players. Serena will be looking to turn the dismal record in grand slam finals as she has lost five finals in her last seven finals.
Sharapova will look to put up a good fight but needs something special if she wants to win this big-stakes match.
Serena Williams to win in three sets.