This half of the ladies’ draw was what you could call the Group of Death with many of the big names. Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova were the two that one would have expected to make it through to the semis, and they have. So this half of the draw has not produced too many surprises in terms of end results, but it did produce some of the finest matches of the tournament so far like the classic Serena Williams-Heather Watson Third Round match, the Serena Williams-Victoria Azarenka Quarterfinal and the Maria Sharapova-Coco Vandeweghe Quarterfinal.
This is a huge match, not just because this is a Wimbledon Semifinal we are talking about, and not just because these are the two biggest names in womens tennis today, but also because the Williams vs Sharapova rivalry is one of the fiercest in womens tennis. So it is a little sad that they are meeting in the semifinal because this could have made for the perfect Wimbledon Final.
Serena Williams is World No. 1 and Sharapova is seeded fourth. Serena has been next to invincible in the last year or so, although she did face a couple of hiccups on her way to this match. She was almost eliminated by British sensation Heather Watson in the third round, and had to come back from a set down to a reborn Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinal.
Sharapova, on the other hand, has sailed to the semifinal much more smoothly, having lost just one set in her 5 matches. Head-to-head, they’ve played 19 times and it’s been pretty one-sided with Serena having won a staggering 17 times. On grass, this will be their 4th meeting, and in their 3 meetings, Sharapova has won once, which was of course the famous 2004 Wimbledon Final that the Russian-American won 6-1, 6-4 at the age of 17, pulling one of the biggest upsets of a generation, and pretty much introducing her to the world. But apart from that and another win later in the same year, Sharapova has had a drought of victories over Serena, having not beaten her in 11 years now.
Tactically, I don’t know to what extent most pundits would agree with me, but I think Sharapova is sharper, quicker and has an edge over Serena when it comes to skill, but what has made Serena almost impossible for anyone to beat in all these years is her unhandleable physical power and unmatchable will. If Sharapova loses the opening set, it’s very hard to imagine her making a comeback but she has a chance if she manages to take the first set, though it would still be a tight call because Serena can come back from absolutely nowhere.
At all levels of logical thought, I think Serena should win this match and have a go at that calendar Grand Slam come Saturday, but being a huge fan of Sharapova’s ever since the 6-1, 6-4 in 2004, there’s a part of me that rebels the logic and says that all these numbers and pre-match analysis are at best meant to shape and define viewer thoughts and emotions, and all the probabilities will be dumped into the trash can when the players step out on to the court. A new day, a new match, and both the players have an equally high mountain to climb (and Maria Sharapova being 6’2” will have an edge in the climb!)
My Prediction: Straight sets win for Sharapova! 7-6 (5), 6-4