It is good for sports, particularly those on the fringe of average fans radar, to have characters. While the current crop of men's tennis players is the greatest to ever play the game, many fans, particularly American's, preferred John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, and Bjorn Borg. The spat that Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams are engaged in, while superficial, generates headlines. Too bad there is no true rivalry on the court.
Let’s be clear, who Sharapova is dating, and whether she is in love, and if Williams had a bad breakup with the same person doesn't really matter. Who Williams is dating, and what that person's background is makes no difference either. Even Williams' ill advised comments about Steubenville do not play into her tennis. That being said, we'll be hearing about this cat fight for the next two weeks. Sharapova and Williams are on the opposite sides of this year’s Wimbledon draw. That means they cannot face each other until the final. For Sharapova's sake, she better hope somebody else derails Williams before she has to try and beat her.
Sharapova and Williams have met 16 times on the court. Serena sports a 14-2 record including 13 straight victories. Sharapova last beat Williams in 2004. During the last nine times they have played Sharapova has captured one set. She's won two of the last 24 sets that she's played against Williams.
Sharapova is a very good player. She's one of only 10 players to ever win the career Grand Slam. She has been in the finals of three out of the last six majors. Her guile and mental toughness allow her to win a lot of matches where more talented, but weaker minded opponents fail. She has been ranked number one five times, and in a lot of ways has overachieved.
Williams is one of the half dozen best players of all time. She has won 16 major championships including three of the last four in addition to the Olympic Gold Medal. She has captured every major title at least twice. The prime of her career began in 2002 when she won all three majors that she competed in and then took two of the first three majors in 2003. Six times Williams has been ranked number one. Since the start of 2002 she has missed nine majors because of various injuries. When healthy she dominates the sport.
While Sharapova has competent players like Marion Bartoli, Caroline Wozniacki, Sloane Stephens, and Sara Errani in her quarter of the draw, and would likely have to play either former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova or world number two Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals, Williams' faces no such challenge.
The best players in Serena's quarter are Maria Kirilenko, who she has never lost to, Sam Stosur, who has only once made it to the third round at Wimbledon, and Angelique Kerber, who has never made a major final. Agnieszka Radwanska pushed Williams to a third set in last year’s Wimbledon final but is 0-5 against Serena should they meet in the semis. The only other potential semifinal opponent of note is Li Na who has never been in a semi at Wimbledon and has only one win against a healthy Williams. That victory came more than five years ago.
For the good of the game let’s hope Sharapova and Williams meet in the final. Just don't expect a miracle result if they do.