The defending champion and world No. 2 won’t be considered the favorite by many prognosticators, and that’s because of her solitary loss on clay this season. If that sounds harsh, it’s because that defeat was Sharapova’s 12th in a row to Serena Williams, the world No. 1 and champion of Charleston, Madrid and Rome. The Russian mustered just five games against her longtime nemesis in Spain, taking a step back after taking a set from Williams earlier this year in Miami. Like Roger Federer when he was 26, Sharapova needs to hope that the dominant clay-court threat is eliminated before the final Sunday. There’s simply no evidence that Williams’ peerless play will wane in Paris, but we were saying the same thing last year, when Serena suddenly slipped up in the first round. A few days later, Sharapova took the title.
What to Like:
With a French Open title to her name and Serena the undisputed favorite, Sharapova will be under (relatively) little pressure to repeat. She’s also playing some of the best clay-court tennis of her career, a cow on ice no longer.
What Not to Like:
If it meant Williams would call it a career, Sharapova would personally bake her a retirement cake and decorate it with Sugarpova candy. It’s tough to picture Sharapova laboring in the kitchen, and tougher to envision her beating Serena.
What to Expect:
Sharapova doesn’t need to change her game, which has become a force on all courts. There’s a good chance it will get her to the final, but if Serena is waiting, Sharapova will need to serve the match of her life.
2013 French Open Profiles: