Sharapova chasing sixth Slam
Originally published on 30/01/15
Li Na won the title after saving a match point against Lucie Safarova in the third round last year and Sharapova looked to be heading out of the competition against fellow Russian Alexandra Panova in the second round.
World No.150 Panova was on the verge of pulling off a major upset when she served for the match at 5-2, but the No.2 seed dug herself out of a hole, saving two match points at 5-4 before clinching victory.
Having survived that scare, Sharapova has found a new lease of life, dropping just 15 games in four matches to reach her 10th major final.
“When you're down and out like I was in the second match, it's like, I better get my stuff together,” said Sharapova. “It was important to change some things around and just to come out with a little bit of a different perspective and play a bit better.”
“I don't need to go around the corners and people telling me, You're great; you'll improve in the next one. If you played a terrible match, you played a terrible match. Go out there and change whatever it takes to turn things around, because you're not going to win the tournament that way.”
Standing between Sharapova and a second Australian Open title is Williams, who saved match points en route to the title here in 2003, when she was two match points down at 2-5 in her third set semi-final against Kim Clijsters before beating sister Venus in the final.
While Williams has not come as close to an early exit as Sharapova, she has had her fair share of scrapes in Melbourne this year. She was forced to come from a set down against Elina Svitolina in the third round and Garbine Muguruza looked set to produce another upset after beating the world No.1 at the 2014 French Open, but the top seed recovered to win in three sets.
Williams also saved three match points against Sharapova en route to winning her third Australian Open title in 2005. Sharapova twice served for the match but Williams roared back to win 2-6 7-5 8-6 before going on to beat Lindsay Davenport in the final.
“The only thing I remember is the inside-out forehand on match point,” Williams recalled of their 2005 semi-final. “I hit it for a winner. I hit it and I walked to the next side as if I knew it was already going to be a winner. That's really the only thing I remember.”
Williams has not lost to Sharapova in over a decade, and now leads the head-to-head 16-2.
“I think her power and her aggressiveness, I think that's always made me a little bit too aggressive, maybe going for a little bit more than I had to,” Sharapova of her poor record against Williams. “She’s great at making players hit that shot that you don't necessarily have to go for, maybe going for a little too much, going on the line.
“It's been a really difficult match-up for me, but I am a competitor. I will go out and I will do everything I can to try to change that result around.”
“Maria is playing great,” said Williams. “She's in the tournament only because she's a fighter and only because she refuses to give up. She has nothing to lose, once again. She has only things to gain.
“And I feel that way, too. I've won this tournament several times. I don't have to go out there and have another title. I want it, but it's not life or death for me. I think that helps me relax. So, yeah, she absolutely has nothing to lose, and I have nothing to lose, so it will be fun.”
Australian Open champions who saved match point
1991 Monica Seles: Saved match point at 6-5 in the third set against Mary Joe Fernandez before defeating Jana Novotna in the final
2002 Jennifer Capriati: Saved four match points in the final against Martina Hingis, eventually prevailing 4-6 7-6(7) 6-2
2003 Serena Williams: Saved two match points in the semi-finals against Kim Clijsters before beating sister Venus in the final
2005 Serena Williams: saved three match points in the semi-finals against Maria Sharapova before beating Lindsay Davenport in the final
2014 Li Na: Saved match point in the third round against Lucie Safarova 1-6 7-6(2) 6-3 before beating Dominika Cibulkova in the final
Australian Open 2015 – Key Stats
Williams has hit 70 aces and 14 double faults in her first six matches. Sharapova has hit 24 aces and 30 double faults.
Sharapova has dropped her serve eight times in six matches (85%). Williams has lost 10 service games (83%).
Sharapova has won 30 return games (56%). Williams has won 29 (49%).
Sharapova has won 75% of points on her first serve. Williams has won 73%.
Williams has hit 189 winners and 138 unforced errors. Sharapova has hit 155 winners and 155 unforced errors.
Williams has spent 8hrs 34mins on court. Sharapova has spent 10hr 40mins.