PARIS: The two biggest names and highest earners in women´s sport will set off on another collision course when the French Open gets underway at Roland Garros on Sunday.
Serena Williams is a 19-time Grand Slam winner, at 33 still the undisputed queen of tennis and the top seed.
Maria Sharapova has won two out of the last three titles in Paris, including last year, and at 28 is in the prime of her glittering and lucrative career.
Should the seedings hold firm and the American plays the Russian in the final on June 6, however, past experience points to there being only one winner.
Williams has not lost to Sharapova since 2004 and leads their head-to-heads by an astounding 17-2, the last of these coming in the Australian Open final at the start of the year.
The outcome was the same in 2013 when the pair met for the first, and to date only time, in the French Open final leaving Sharapova no doubt hoping that someone can do her a huge favour by downing Williams in the early rounds as did Spain´s Garbine Muguruza last year.
Still, Sharapova believes she is hitting form at the right time and fancies her chances on clay, Williams´ least-favourite surface.
“I guess to be in this position I think for many, including myself, the transition I made on the clay courts to become a two-time French Open champion has been, you know, a big surprise and really incredible achievement personally for me,” she said Friday.
“Because I was able to take something that was a big weakness of mine and make it into one of my strengths.”
An upset early on for Williams is not out of the question as she has been vulnerable in the past on the Paris clay and, after losing her 27-match unbeaten run in the semi-finals of the Madrid Open earlier this month, she subsequently withdrew from the Italian Open with a sore elbow.
The arm injury is getting better, she said Friday, but it is still a concern.