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Tennis | Roland Garros

Sharapova aims to end Serena sob story



Defending champion Maria Sharapova looks to end nine years of hurt when she tackles world No 1 Serena Williams for the French Open title at Roland Garros on Saturday.

The Russian has not defeated the American since 2004, the year when she burst onto the scene winning Wimbledon and the season-ending WTA Championships.

But Williams too has some history scores to settle as she seeks a 16th Grand Slam title but first in Paris since her maiden triumph in 2002.

The 26-year-old, second-seeded Sharapova, is on a 12-match unbeaten run at Roland Garros but on the other side of the net will be a player who is on a career best 30-match winning streak.

The 31-year-old American's 6-0, 6-1, 46-minute demolition of Sara Errani in the semifinals was frightening in its intensity and Sharapova has lost her last 12 matches against the American.

Since her wins in 2004, she has managed to claim just three sets, the last of those coming in a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 defeat in the Miami final in March.

The last match between the two saw Williams win easily 6-1, 6-4 in the final on clay at Madrid last month.

"Despite that record and despite me being unsuccessful against her, I believe that I'm happy to be setting up chances to be going out and facing her – someone that's been playing and dominating tennis for almost a year now. You know, her success has been incredible," said Sharapova.

"But going into a French Open final, that doesn't matter. It all starts from zero. You've got to play until the last point, and believe in yourself."

Williams will be out to end 11 years of frustration in a Roland Garros final which features the two top seeds for the first time in 18 years.

The American's title win at Roland Garros in 2002 came when she defeated sister Venus in a final she says she remembers nothing about.

Since then she has etched her name in the history books of tennis, taking her haul of Grand Slam singles titles to 15, just three shy of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, who are tied for fourth on the all-time list.

Five Australian Open titles, five at Wimbledon and four at the US Open, yet the French Open title count has remained stubbornly stuck at one.

On top of that, the Roland Garros claycourts and the French public have seldom been kind to the American, preferring the easy charm of Kim Clijsters, the pure talent of Justine Henin and the glamour of Sharapova to her perceived brash American character and style of play.

Much of that appears to have changed this year with Williams gaining warm applause for speaking French in her post-match, on-court interviews and going on about how much she loves Europe and France in particular.

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