Thursday, 9 July 2015

The Serena-Sharapova "rivalry"

I'm not a tennis nut, I don't watch it much aside from Wimbledon but I know enough about it to know the big names and I know the rules of it. I used to play it as hobby when I was younger but I went off it.

Anyways, in the lead up to the Semi-Final of Wimbledon (Women's singles) between heavyweights Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova there has been alot of hype over their "rivalry". For example The Telegraph titled their preview to the match as "Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams have a rivalry built on antipathy, mistrust and malice". The Guardian had "Serena Williams v Maria Sharapova a rivalry that threatens to catch fire" as their title. The Australian used the words "arch rivals" to describe them.

If you looked at the stats you would come to conclusion that if this is a rivalry then it is the most lopsided rivalry there is in sport. Before today Williams has a 17-2 record over Sharapova, she has beaten Sharapova 16 consecutive times (some of those matches have been quite brutal for Mighty Maria) and she last lost to Sharapova in 2004.

Last I checked The act of rivaling is to compete for superiority in a given field. Therefore, it suggests some comparability of skill between the rivals. When it comes to US tennis star Serena Williams and Russian Maria Sharapova, no such rivalry exists-no matter how many times their relationship is described as such in the media.

When the two "rivals" actually turned our for their semi final encounter at Wimbledon today: surprise, surprise, Serena emerged as the victor (yet again). 

Maybe this rivalry talk emerges from that fateful match in 2004, when then-17-year-old Sharapova shocked the world by beating Williams in the final at Wimbledon. It was obviously a spectacular performance by the youthful Sharapova. But it was also 11 bloody years ago! Williams’s record of performance since has been undeniably superior and dominant.

In the decade since, Serena has won 16 out 17 matches against her younger opponent-five of them Grand Slams. In a Wimbledon rematch in 2010 Williams carried the match easily: 7-6, 6-4. They’ve met 12 times between 2010 and now, and in those years, Sharapova has only won a single set-including during the Olympics final at Wimbledon in 2012, in which Williams utterly trounced her once more (6-0, 6-1). That 2012 Olympics Final is what I call the definition of a "beat down".

Alot of the hype around these two is based around the fact that they apparently have a beef with each other  and glib talk of ex-lovers.  Indeed, publicly they come off as practically friendly. “I love playing Maria,” Williams has said. “I think she brings out the best in me. I think I bring out the best in her.” At the end of the day whatever fury may exist between Williams and Sharapova it did not emerge on the tennis court.

Why the lopsidedness in this "rivalry" then? Serena just has the upper hand over Maria. It really is as simple as that. 17 consecutive victories can no longer be explained away as an anomaly. In Bryan Graham's analysis Williams "has mastered an oppressive, pugilistic style that Sharapova has neither the nerve, nor tactical versatility to match".

Watching the match myself it seemed that Serena made mince meat out of her Maria it was like watching one of those scenes from a National Geographic show of a lion running down an antelope: There was the swipe of a giant paw and a cloud of dust as the poor creature got taken down and gutted. The rather modest score of 6-2 6-4 did not reveal the ocean of difference between them. The sprayed and erratic shots of Sharapova and the forcible power of Williams.

The fact Williams seemingly barely broke a sweat in crushing Sharapova is scary when you think about it because Sharapova is no slouch, she is regarded one of the best players of her generation along with Williams and has a reputation of being a battler and a fighter, however the fact that Serena dominates Maria whenever they play is astonishing. Serena hasn't just gotten the better of her biggest rival; she's beaten her more often than she has beaten anyone else, and she has done it without mercy and has resulted in a few trouncings and steamrollings.

One of those trouncings came in the 2007 Australian Open final when Serena steamrolled Maria 6-1, 6-2. Another one came in the 2012 Olympics Women's Singles Gold Final which was just an absolute destruction of Maria, as someone once said "From the director of the Desolation of Smaug comes the Decimation of Maria". It wasn't a case of Maria had a bad game it was just that Serena was just too good and she demolished Maria in under 63 minutes and in devastating style. Her one-sided victory was laced with such devastating power and vicious accuracy that for large parts of the contest Sharapova looked like a bewildered onlooker. At least the pain was over quickly for poor Maria. At one point in the first set Serena had more aces than Maria had points!

I understand why there is this rivalry hype because these two ladies are icons of Tennis and regarded as the best players of their generation plus the sponsorships both women get as a result of their stardom, so whenever they play it will generate quite alot of hype. However when the stats clearly show Serena has 17 consecutive victories over Maria since 2004 and consistently trounces and demolishes Maria its time you stop calling that a rivalry. Its plain and simple domination.

On a side note you have to feel abit sorry for Maria maybe one of these days she will get this monkey off her back and actually score a victory over Serena but she has drastically improve her game and especially her serves. Also I predict Serena will win Wimbledon and get her "Serena Slam" and make history.

Bye Now

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