Australian Open 2015: It doesn’t get bigger than Williams and Sharapova

Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova arguably two of the most popular women in any sport

World No1 Serena Williams and No2 Maria Sharapova will meet for the 19th time to contest their ninth final at the climax of the women’s draw of this year’s Australian Open.

It is the first time in over a decade that the top two women have made it through their respective halves… and as if that was not enough to whet the appetite, victory would take Sharapova to within 36 points of Williams in the rankings.

They are the most popular women in tennis, and arguably two of the most popular in any sport. Russian superstar Sharapova has 1.5 million Twitter followers and more than 15 million Facebook likes, while the famous American has over 4.5 million followers on Twitter and 2.7 million Facebook likes.

When it comes to earnings on court, Williams also dominates… a cool $63m and counting, Sharapova almost $33 million. However in endorsement earnings, Sharapova dominates—according to Forbes, she is the top-earning female athlete in the world.

So things could not have worked out much better for the Australian Open.

There is one more ‘edge’ to the story of a rivalry that has endured since the teenage sensation Sharapova beat Williams to claim her first Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2004. Not since the end of that same year has Sharapova managed to beat the 18-time Grand Slam champion. Indeed through the current streak of 15 wins for Williams, Sharapova has won only three sets.

They arrive at this latest face-off in fine form: The average ranking of their opponents is 67, with Williams dropping just two sets and Sharapova only one—but can the Russian finally beat her nemesis?

The facts and stats behind the Williams/Sharapova final

• Both have won the Australian title before—Sharapova in 2008, Williams five times, including the year they last contested the title in Melbourne in 2007.

• Serena is aiming to win her 19th Grand Slam title, second only to Steffi Graf’s 22.

• Serena has won 22 of her last 23 matches against top-10 players, her only loss since the start of the 2013 US Open coming in the 2014 WTA Championships round robin to Simona Halep.

• Serena and Maria are the only two active players who have won all four Grand Slams—and just four other players have done it in the Open Era: Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf.

• Maria is playing her 10th Grand Slam final: The only other active players in double figures are Serena, playing her 23rd, and Venus Williams with 14.

• Serena will retain the No1 ranking for a 102nd consecutive week, win or lose.

• Maria is on an 11-match streak in 2015, having won in Brisbane before Melbourne.

• Serena, who turned 33 last September, becomes the oldest player to reach the women’s singles final of the Australian Open in the Open Era.

• With the Brisbane title, Maria has now won at least one title a year for 13 straight years

• Serena is playing in her 15 Australian Open, her first one played in 1998, while Maria plays her 12th.

• Maria is aiming to hold two Grand Slam titles within a 12-month period for the first time in her career, having won Roland Garros in 2014.

• Serena won a WTA-leading seven titles in 2014, highlighted by a sixth US Open title and a fifth WTA Championship.

• In 2014, Maria won four titles in 2014 and qualified for WTA Championships for the seventh time.

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