Maria Sharapova faces Serena Williams in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros on Monday in what is probably her best chance of victory over her arch rival in years.
Two of the biggest names in women’s tennis of recent years have enjoyed a sometimes tense rivalry throughout their careers, but in reality the battle between the duo is anything but a rivalry on court.
The Russian has won just two of her 21 meetings with Williams on tour over the years, with both of those coming way back in 2004.
Still, with both players feeling their way back after lengthy layoffs, Sharapova following a drugs ban and Williams returning from pregnancy, Monday presents Sharapova with a big opportunity to put one over on her American foe.
And although she will secretly be hoping to score a long-awaited win, the 31-year old Russian is under no illusions about how difficult that task will prove.
“Any time you play against Serena you know what you’re up against,” Sharapova said.
“You know the challenge that is upon you. You know, despite the record that I have against her, I always look forward to coming out on the court and competing against the best player.
“I think there is a lot of things in her game that she’s done much better than I have. Numbers don’t lie.”
Williams, meanwhile, will have added impetus to win after Sharapova devoted large portions of her autobiography last year to her 2004 Wimbledon final win over Williams.
The American was clearly unhappy when asked about the content of the book, particularly with the section that described how Sharapova claimed to have heard Williams crying in the locker room after the match.
“I think the book was 100 percent hearsay, at least all the stuff I read and the quotes that I read, which was a little bit disappointing,” she said.
Asked about the match, she remained diplomatic.
“[Sharapova’s] probably a favorite in this match, for sure. You know, she’s been playing, like I said, for over a year now. I just started.”
“We are both on a comeback, for two totally different reasons,” Williams said.
“She’s been on her journey for over a year and I just started mine a couple months ago. So, you know, it’s just something new and different.”
Those journeys will reach a climax on Philippe Chatrier on Monday evening and it’s safe to say it will be a climax everyone is eager to see the outcome of.