Maria Sharapova’s injury

Published: August 31, 2015

Maria Sharapova’s injury, In a statement that was both expected, yet still somewhat surprising, world No. 3 and five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova withdrew from the U.S. Open on Sunday, about 18 hours before the tournament was set to begin.

It’s the second time in three years that Sharapova has had to pull out of the Open due to injury, but only the fourth since making her major debut in 2003.

As with everything that happens in the women’s bracket over the next fortnight, the immediate question after the Sharapova withdrawal was about the woman all eyes are upon in New York: How does this affect Serena Williams?

And surprisingly, I think the answer is poorly. Sharapova was drawn into Serena’s half of the draw, meaning the two would have faced off in a potential semifinal. There would have been five potential stumbling blocks for each woman before getting to that potential match — small ones for Serena and bigger ones for Sharapova, as she was fighting this injury that had kept her from playing any hard-court this summer. Still, that was the showdown everybody wanted, and expected, to see. And all of that people eager to see it, Serena was at the head of the list.

Serena’s total and utter dominance over Sharapova has been well documented. The American lost to a then 17-year-old Sharapova in the 2004 Wimbledon final and then again in that season’s year-end WTA championships. Since then, however, the two have played 17 times and Serena has won them all. All of them, I said.

She’s a perfect 17-0, with five of those coming in the semis or finals of a major (or the Olympics). Sharapova has pushed Serena to three sets just three times in that losing streak, including only once in the last 12 matches. She lost the aforementioned Olympic gold medal match 6-0, 6-1 and somehow that score doesn’t capture the raw superiority of Miss Williams. These matches aren’t close. When Sharapova takes the court against Serena, she ceases being a five-time Grand Slam champ and top-five player and looks like a nervous college player playing her first conference match.

So, seeing Sharapova in the semifinals would have been the best possible news for Serena, who has already acknowledged the great pressure that will be upon her shoulders as she takes to the court for each match in New York. With Sharapova across the net, that pressure would have turned into an almost farcical confidence. It’s like, “oh, you think you’re gonna beat me?” Every match is going to be filled with stress. The Sharapova one would have brought the least.

Now it could literally be anyone facing Serena in that semi, and by literally I mean the 32 women in that quarter of the draw. Just going down the list, the names jump out: Svetlana Kuznetsova is only the No. 30 seed but is 3-4 against the top 10 this year and already has a U.S. Open title (albeit from 11 years ago). Heather Watson should have beat Serena at Wimbledon, but perhaps was cowed by the pressure of being the great British female hope. Carla Suarez Navarro (No. 10) is more of a dirtballer, but made the quarters at the Open in 2013. Jelena Jankovic is an enigma wrapped inside an off-brand tennis dress, yet is an okay 4-10 against Serena lifetime. Dominika Cibulkova is unseeded and made an Australian Open final in 2014, the same year her first-round opponent, Ana Ivanovic, defeated Serena in the fourth round. You know what’s so scary about those names? That they’re not scary.


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