Having lost her last 17 matches against Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova must be wondering if she’ll ever down the American again – not that she would admit it of course.
Sharapova won two of their first three meetings, including as a 17-year-old in the Wimbledon final, but the world number one has since very much had her number.
And it’s not just that Sharapova has lost so many matches in succession, it’s how she’s lost them. Since 2010, she has won just one set in 13 matches. It’s been brutal.
Can Sharapova finally end her losing run? She’s certainly in good form, but that might not be enough. While her serve will pose problems – she’s serving more aces than ever – it’s likely that her tendency to throw in a few double faults for good measure will only increase under the pressure of Williams’ game.
Against Belinda Bencic in the fourth round Sharapova served 21 aces and seven double faults, while making 46 unforced errors and striking 58 winners. Speaking after the match Sharapova conceded that it was the need to be aggressive that may have caused some of those errors.
“I felt like I had to be aggressive. I’m an aggressive player,” she explained. “But there is a difference between making the wrong errors and making the right errors. I feel like, yeah, I made errors. I went sometimes for a little bit too much. But I think the difference is sometimes you’re making errors, but you feel like you’re doing the right thing.
“Ultimately when the time comes, you have to believe that those errors are just, you know, a few centimeters wide or long that they’re going to start going in.”
Sharapova is certainly going to need those shots to go in against Williams. The world number one is always an intimidating opponent, but she’s reaching top form at Melbourne Park, with the knee injury that hampered her at the Hopman Cup a distant memory.
Williams has dropped just 17 games across four matches, nine of which were in her opening round match against Camila Giorgi. Her meeting with Giorgi is also the only time that she was out on court for more than an hour.
Asked about the pressure that Sharapova will be under when they face off on Tuesday, Williams asserted that there was just as much pressure on her to continue the winning run.
“Every match is new,” said Williams, insisting she would take nothing for granted. “She always brings in something new and something special. She’s very consistent as well. I’m really confident in my game right now – not [especially] against her or any other opponent; I’m just really looking at me right now and I feel if I can just continue to play well then it could be good.”
The confidence Williams speaks of is a major worry for Sharapova. A confident Williams means aggression and precision that will be hard to smother.
Sharapova could give Williams a good game on Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday, but unfortunately for the fifth seed, that appears to be about as much as she can hope for.
Catch all the action of the Australian Open from now until January 31st LIVE and EXCLUSIVE on FOX Sports and FOX Sports 2. FOX Sports subscribers can watch all matches free on FOX Sports Play or on www.FoxSportsAsia.com