Sharapova the clear underdog against Serena

PARIS • Maria Sharapova admitted on Saturday that "numbers don't lie" as she prepared to face bitter rival Serena Williams, whom she has lost to 18 times in a row, in the French Open fourth round.

Sharapova, who thrashed Karolina Pliskova in the third round, will face Williams for the 22nd time in the last 16 today, after the American saw off Germany's Julia Gorges 6-3, 6-4.

Williams leads her head-to-head record with Sharapova 19-2, with the Russian's last win coming at the 2004 WTA Tour Championships - before even the birth of Twitter and YouTube.

Sharapova has lost their last seven meetings in straight sets and has managed to take only three sets off the 36-year-old in those 18 defeats. It will be their first clash since Williams' win in the 2016 Australian Open quarter-finals - Sharapova's last match before a 15-month doping ban.

"Any time you play against Serena you know what you're up against," said the 31-year-old.

"You know the challenge that is upon you. You know, despite the record that I have against her, I always look forward to competing against the best player. I think there are a lot of things in her game that she's done much better than I have... Numbers don't lie."

Their rivalry is one of the most closely examined in the sport and not always for what happens on court.

There have been clashes over their private lives, with Sharapova saying last year in her book that Williams "hates" her for hearing her cry after the 2004 Wimbledon final.

Williams turned up the heat on Saturday, saying the claims about her in the book were not true. She said: "I have cried in the locker room many times after a loss. I think it's normal. It's a Wimbledon final, you know. I think it would be more shocking if I wasn't in tears."

The third-round match will be the earliest the two have played each other since a last-16 meeting at Wimbledon in 2010.

But Williams, who is still getting back into the game after giving birth last September, thinks the Russian is the favourite to win.

"She's been playing for over a year now. I just started," she added.

"So I'm just really trying to get my bearings and trying to feel out where I am and see where I can go."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2018, with the headline 'Sharapova the clear underdog against Serena'. Print Edition | Subscribe