Madrid Sunday: Battle For Top Spot
Published May 11, 2013 12:00
 Serena Williams (USA #1) vs.  Maria Sharapova (RUS #2)
Head-to-head: Williams leads 12-2
For someone who once described her own movement on a clay court as reminiscent of "a cow on ice", Maria Sharapova has looked decidedly sure footed of late, winning four titles on the surface over the past few years.
Sharapova's transformation on the dirt is a testament to her unquenchable thirst for self improvement, a quality that will stand her in good stead for the challenge that lies ahead on Sunday afternoon, namely toppling her nemesis, Serena Williams.
Since gate crashing tennis' top table with back-to-back wins over Williams at Wimbledon and the WTA Championships in 2004, Sharapova has been forced to play second fiddle in the head-to-head stakes. In fact, such has been Williams' dominance of late that she has dropped just one set in their last seven meetings.
That solitary set came in their most recent encounter, earlier this year in Miami, a match that suggested the Russian and her coach Thomas Hogstedt are getting closer to solving their Williams-shaped conundrum.
Further morsels of comfort come in the shape of Williams' relative struggles on red clay in recent times; despite picking up titles on the green (Charleston) and blue (Madrid) varieties in recent years, the American's last red clay final came during her annus mirabilis back in 2002, when she won in both Rome and Roland Garros. Since then, Williams has suffered a number of heartbreaking moments on the red dust, none more so than her first round defeat to Virginie Razzano at last year's French Open.
Of course, Williams, who knows that defeat in the final will see her relinquish her No.1 ranking to Sharapova, has always taken great pleasure in proving the doubters wrong, and it would be no surprise if she is the one smiling on Sunday afternoon.
Williams: "I look forward to it. I feel like this whole tournament I've only played clay court players from my first round to now, and everyone was also smaller than me. So I think tomorrow will be a really good match - a different game, more power obviously, but still a lot of the consistency. So I'm looking forward to it."
Sharapova: "It's always tough against her. I haven't had a win against her in a long time, but the great thing is that I'm really setting myself up in a position where I can try to change that around. I thought I did really well against her in Miami for the first set and a half and the goal is to keep that level for the whole match this time and take my opportunities. It's been a while since we played on a clay court, too, and every match is different."
Road To The Final
First Round: Yulia Putintseva, 76(5) 61 (1:38)
Second Round: d. Lourdes Domínguez Lino, 62 75 (1:26)
Third Round: d. Maria Kirilenko, 63 61 (1:05)
Quarterfinals: d. Anabel Medina Garrigues, 63 06 75 (2:14)
Semifinals: d. Sara Errani, 75 62 (1:34)
First Round: Alexandra Dulgheru, 75 62 (1:36)
Second Round: d. Christina McHale, 61 62 (1:07)
Third Round: d. Sabine Lisicki, 62 75 (1:42)
Quarterfinals: d. Kaia Kanepi, 62 64 (1:23)
Semifinals: d. Ana Ivanovic, 64 63 (1:17)
For more on the final, see our Match Notes in the Press Center.