But when she plays No. 1 Serena Williams, she essentially turns into Milos from Seinfeld. In 19 career matches against the current World No. 1, Sharapova is 2-17, with her last victory against Serena coming in 2004.
At one point in their careers, Sharapova actually led the head-to-head series. After Serena won their first matchup at the Miami Masters in 2004, Sharapova, just 17 at the time, completed a historic run at Wimbledon with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Williams to capture her first major:
Sharapova followed that win with another at the 2004 WTA Championships. She ended the season ranked fourth, while Williams fell into a bit of a spiral, battling injuries and winning “only” one major over the next two years. Although Serena beat Sharapova at the 2005 Australia Open, it took a comeback and third-set tiebreak, and it appeared the game’s hierarchy was changing.
But that never happened. The turning point came at the 2007 Australian Open. Williams, who was “widely regarded as out of shape,” entered the tournament unseeded but steamrolled through the competition and destroyed Sharapova in the final, 6-1, 6-2:
From that point on, the head-to-head matchup was never close. Serena got revenge at Wimbledon in 2010. She crushed Sharapova in the 2012 Olympics gold-medal match, 6-0, 6-1. During a 16-match winning streak against Sharapova, which she extended at the Australian Open final earlier this year, Williams has needed a full three sets just three times. In two of those, she won the deciding set by scores of 6-1 and 6-0. Sharapova has won 10 games in a match just twice.
It’s easy to see why Serena vs. Sharapova is often referred to as a rivalry. They are the two most successful, popular, marketable stars from the past decade, and they’ve added fuel to the fire with plenty of drama off the court.
But don’t call it an even-sided rivalry.