By Kevin Ware
(March 29, 2013) Serena Williams has already broken Steffi Graf’s total number of Miami match wins, and now has the chance to pull ahead in most Miami titles won. The only thing between Williams and Miami immortality is Maria Sharapova. Sharapova, the newest member of the career Grand Slam club, has been to the Miami final on four separate occasions, but never taken the title. Unfortunately for Sharapova, number five won’t be any different.
Writing about this match feels like Groundhog Day, because I know I’ve written these same words before each of their last few matches. This is the worst match-up possible for Sharapova. After two wins over Williams in 2004 (Wimbledon and WTA Championships), she has yet to win another. In fact, this rivalry has been so one-sided that it often seems like Maria is doomed to never even win another set.
Saturday probably won’t be any different, but you never know. Every day is a new day, and any player can be beat on a given day (no matter how improbable). Let’s take a deeper look at this match and see if there is some way that Maria can reverse the losing trend against Serena.
Serena Williams  versus Maria Sharapova 
Head-to-Head: Serena leads 11-2
Sharapova was in dominant form against a slowed Jelena Jankovic. Williams was in ruthless form against Agniezska Radwanska. This is a no-brainer, since ruthless always wins over dominant. In a word, Maria has very little chance of beating Serena on Saturday. There are, however, a few things she can try that might delay the inevitable.
To have a chance in this final, Sharapova must:
- Serve well with a high first serve percentage, and no double faults. I know that Serena is an intimidating returner who makes you feel like you need to serve harder, but you must resist and serve smarter with better placement.
- Take her chances on the serve return, and attack any second serves. She may not see any the entire match, but she must be prepared to do so if she does!
- Make Serena run so she can’t dictate play from the middle of the court. She may still hit winners on the run, but they aren’t as certain as the winners she will undoubtedly hit if Maria allows her to dictate play from the middle of the court.
- Hope and pray that she has an “off” day. Serena is an excellent tennis player, but she’s still human. She was beaten by Sloane Stephens in Australia, and Victoria Azarenka in Doha. It can happen. And if not an off day, then hope she gets caught in traffic on the way to the tournament.
Even with these helpful tips, all Serena needs to do is bring her “A” game, and she’ll get her 6th Miami title. If she only brings her “B” game, she’ll still get her 6th Miami title. It’ll just take 3 sets instead of 2.
Serena Williams in two sets.