Prediction: Maria Sharapova will stun Serena Williams, snap 16-match losing streak at Wimbledon
Maria Sharapova was so close. Victoria Azarenka looked to have Serena Williams on the ropes in their Tuesday quarterfinal, a position the world No. 1 has steadily found herself in during her 26-match Grand Slam winning streak. With an Azarenka win, Sharapova would be facing a woman she’d defeated four-straight times in Thursday’s semifinal, a woman who would give her an easily defined path to just her second Wimbledon final in 11 years.
Instead, Serena Williams did what Serena Williams does. She buckled down, let out of a few screams and made that first-set deficit a distant memory by the end, rolling over Azarenka like she’s rolled over so many before, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
And now, it’s Serena vs. Sharapova for the right to go to the Wimbledon final. But what should be a tennis delight featuring the two best players in the game over the past decade is instead a rivalry — if you can even call it that — on par with the Globetrotters and Generals. Over the past decade, when they have consistently been two of the best tennis players in the world, Serena Williams is 16-0 against Maria Sharapova. Sixteen and zero. How bad is it for Sharapova, beyond that 0-16 record?
1. Of the 16 matches, 13 have been decided in straight sets.
2. Just three of the 35 sets they’ve played have gone to a tiebreak. (Serena has won all three.)
3. Serena has won a total of 32 sets during the streak. Ten of those were by a score of 6-0 or 6-1, including the famous 6-0, 6-1 beatdown in the 2012 Olympic final at Wimbledon.
4. The last time the women went to three sets (Miami, 2013), Serena won the decider 6-0.
5. And it’s not as if this rivalry is based on old matches that hold little meaning today: Ten of the 16 matches have taken place since 2012.
But if you’re going to talk about all those pro-Serena stats, you have to mention the one pro-Maria stat: When they played their second match, all the way back in 2004 when Sharapova was a lanky 17-year-old Russian and Serena ruled the game, Sharapova pulled what was, at the time, one of the biggest upsets of a generation. It came in the Wimbledon final, created a tennis superstar in Sharapova and sent Williams into a relative tailspin (she had six majors at the time, then would win just three in the next half-decade).
They’ve only played in Wimbledon once since then, six years later when Serena won one of the harder fought battles of their rivalry, taking their fourth-round match 7-6 (9), 6-4. And, to her credit, Sharapova has played Williams (relatively) tougher of late. Their meeting in the Australian Open final was 6-3, 7-6 (5). An early-2014 final in Brisbane was 6-2, 7-6 (7). The 2013 French Open final was 6-4, 6-4.
Put aside the stats for a second. Sharapova is going to win one day. She just has to. Unless one of them retires this year, the odds say that she’ll get the best of Serena at some point in her career. All streaks end. And there will be no better time then Thursday. Serena looks completely dialed in at the moment, dispatching her sister with ease, then calmly coming back against an opponent in Azarenka who easily could have won that match in straight sets. Serena Williams currently looks like a freight train barreling through London en route to New York.
Still, the historical weight of the Grand Slam looms for Serena. She has to be calmer after getting through that tough Venus/Vika double, but now that the Wimbledon title is just four sets away, we could start to see some of the tight playing we saw earlier in the tournament and during the French Open final. For the first time since Serena’s winning streak over Maria became “a thing” (say around match No. 8), the pressure will be more on Serena’s side of the court than Sharapova’s. The Russian is expected to lose. Seventeen doesn’t sound that much worse than 16. She can be freer and easier, knowing that Serena is two wins away from a second Serena Slam and nine wins away from a historic Grand Slam. Sharapova, on the other hand, is just playing with house money.
This is Serena Williams’ match to lose. But maybe, just maybe, it’s Maria Sharapova’s to win. The streak will end some time. Why not Thursday?
PREDICTION: MARIA SHARAPOVA D. SERENA WILLIAMS, 7-6 (5), 6-1.