Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are two of the most famous female athletes of the last two decades, but the rivalry they share on the tennis court has always been lopsided. Serena is 20-2 in head ups against Sharapova.
There was a time, however, when the 32-year-old Sharapova was a bigger brand than Serena. The Russian legend was ranked No. 1 in the world on five separate occasions after breaking onto the tour in 2001. She reflected much of America’s warped perception of elite beauty. She was talented, white, blonde and foreign. Serena was the black girl, born and raised in Compton, California, home of NWA.
More than a decade removed from Sharapova’s peak popularity — her brand still commands 8.7 million Twitter followers. That’s just two million less than the 37-year-old Serena, whose brand is still hotter than fish grease and always expanding.
Sharapova defeated Serena at Wimbledon in 2004.
Maria Sharapova after beating Serena Williams in the 2004 Wimbledon final. "I know there are going to be so many more moments where we we're going to play … hopefully many more times in other Grand Slams."
Since, Serena is 7-0 against Sharapova at Grand Slams and 18-1 overall. pic.twitter.com/K8lAg1mCo8
— Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) August 26, 2019
A media-inspired narrative developed, pitting the two against each other, hoping they would provide a racially-driven tennis saga that would have the sports world buzzing for years to come.
Unfortunately, 2004 was the last time Sharapova would ever defeat Williams and Sharapova’s career faded into the background along with the careers of every woman in tennis not named Williams. The tennis legends hadn’t met in three years until they played each other in the first round of the 2019 US Open on Monday with Serena smashing Maria in straight sets (6-1, 6-1).
Serena Williams defeats Maria Sharapova in the first round of the US Open
Serena moves to 20-2 all-time vs. Sharapova in head-to-head matches 👏 pic.twitter.com/xzt3VcfMj9
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 27, 2019
With the win at the US Open, Serena extended her 19-game winning streak against Maria. The two have faced each other in four Grand Slam final over the course of their careers. After losing that initial Wimbledon, Serena won the 2007 Australian Open, the 2013 French Open, and 2015 Australian Open over Sharapova.
Serena remains the center of the tennis world. When she steps onto any kind of court, she is never actually battling the player across from her. Williams has already crushed those opponents time and time again. And the newbies who threaten to officially send her into retirement, don’t have the grit or hunger to permanently replace Serena. Or give her a reason to say “I ain’t got it anymore.”
She’s one Grand Slam from tying the all-time record held by Margaret Court. That’s the only thing she’s chasing. Falling short of that record would just confuse the facts. Serena is hands down the greatest women’s tennis player ever and possibly the greatest athlete of this generation. Therefore, Grand Slam wins No. 24 AND 25 is a necessary evil that needs to be eradicated.
Roger Federer is seeking to become the first man to win six singles title at Flushing Meadows.
Serena Williams is looking to equal Margaret Court’s 24 Grand Slam singles titles.
— Talking Tennis (@TalkingTennis_) August 25, 2019
Serena knows she won’t play forever. Just long enough to capture this record that has proved to be elusive. She’s already conquered women’s tennis, high society, racial barriers, gender barriers, and fashion stereotypes.
Right now, she’s like a closer in baseball trying to get the 27th out of the World Series.
As the age and injuries pile up and the young guns mature, the fact remains that the only thing that can truly defeat Serena is her failed pursuit of Court’s record. Everyone and everything else is really of no consequence. No competition.