Serena Williams stirs up rivalry before Maria Sharapova duel
American saw off Julia Goerges to set up a meeting with old nemesis at Roland Garros
Serena Williams of the United States celebrates victory during the ladies singles third round match against Julia Georges of Germany at the 2018 French Open at Roland Garros. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
The pair will face each other for the first time since the quarter-final of the 2016 Australian Open, which was Sharapova’s last match before a 15-month doping ban.
Sharapova has won just two of their 21 meetings, including the 2004 Wimbledon final which she covered in some detail in her autobiography released last year.
In it the Russian described how she heard Williams sobbing loudly in the locker room afterwards, and claimed that defeat was the reason behind the American’s dominant record over her since.
Williams hit back shortly after completing a 6-3 6-4 third-round win over Julia Goerges.
She said: “I think the book was 100 per cent hearsay, at least all the stuff I read and the quotes that I read, which was a little bit disappointing.
“One of the things I always say, I feel like women, especially, should bring each other up.
“I wanted to read the book and I was really excited for it to come out and I was really happy for her.
“And then the book was a lot about me! I was surprised about that, to be honest. I didn’t expect to be reading a book about me, that wasn’t necessarily true.
“So I was like, ‘this is really interesting’. I didn’t know she looked up to me that much or was so involved in my career.”
Williams is playing her first grand slam since giving birth to her daughter in September.
“It’s been different,” she added. “We are both on a comeback — for two totally different reasons — and she’s been on her journey for over a year and I just started mine a couple months ago.”
Sharapova had earlier dropped just three games as she knocked out the sixth-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova.
Asked about a showdown with Williams, she said: “It’s been a while, and I think a lot has happened in our lives for the both of us in very different ways.
“I have spoken about that chapter for a long time now, and to be able to put myself back in these positions and to not shy away from these moments, to come out on centre court and want the challenge of moving forward and to be able to face Serena, I think that speaks for itself.”
Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza is now many pundits’ favourites for the title after dismantling Sam Stosur.
The Spaniard, winner in 2016 and seeded third, took just 62 minutes to see off Stosur, the 2011 US Open champ, 6-0 6-2.