In the best rivalry in women’s tennis, mega-stars and top seeds Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova clash in the finals of the Miami Sony Open on Saturday on Key Biscayne. Serena is a 5-time Miami champion while 2012 runner-up Sharapova has never won the title in four previous final efforts.
These two are meeting for the 14th time in their long history (Serena leads 11-2) and Serena’s won the last 10 since Maria’s two wins in 2004 which includes the Wimbledon final.
“I love playing her,” Serena said on Thursday. “I love seeing her on the opposite side, because she just brings out a good game. I just like the challenge of playing someone who has made history and who is doing so well. Maybe that’s it. I just want to play well against a great player. I don’t know.”
Sharapova enters the match on a career-best 22 set winning streak having won her last 11 matches since the start of the Indian Wells. Serena, who skipped Indian Wells, is seeking her first title since Brisbane.
“She’s been playing awesome,” Serena said of Maria’s streak. “I definitely expect a tough match. She’s a great player. What else can you expect? You know, she hasn’t lost in a long time so I have to be ready. One thing about her, she constantly improves. I actually learn a lot from her and from that. Hopefully I can be able to do the same.”
During her streak, Sharapova has only beaten one Grand Slam champion and that was Francesca Schiavone in the opening round at Indian Wells. So on Saturday facing Serena will be a big increase in level of competition. And the last five times these two have played Sharapova only got to four games in one of their 10 sets.
“She’s a tremendous athlete, has so much power, you know, and a confidence player, as well,” Sharapova said. “So if you have a few easy games where, you know, you’re not stepping in, not playing the way you should be, she takes really good advantage of it.”
Serena is seeking her 48th career title, Sharapova her 29th.
* S.Williams (5-2 in F) is making her 8th singles final appearance here in Miami, while Sharapova has advanced to the final in Miami four times (0-4), but is seeking her first title here. Only four players have reached 5 or more finals here in Miami along with Serena Williams (5-2 in F), Graf (5-2) and Evert (1-4).
* The last time the top-seed won the title here in Miami was S.Wiliams in 2004 (d. Dementieva in F).
* Only twice has the Miami tournament been won by a player who did not hold the world No.1 ranking during their career – 1989 (Sabatini) and 2012 (A.Radwanska).
* A 5-time Miami champion, S.Williams has lost at this event only to a player who has held the No.1 ranking at some point in their career: Capriati (twice), V.Williams (twice), Azarenka, Hingis and Wozniacki.
* S.Williams is bidding for her 48th singles title (46-16 in finals with one title via walkover), while Sharapova is playing in her 48th career final (28-19 in finals).
* This is the third time at Miami that the current world No.1 (S.Williams) has met the current world No.2 (Sharapova) in the final here, and 4th time overall.
* Including wins at Miami over No.5 Li (QF) and No.4 A.Radwanska (SF), S.Williams is 83-30 all-time vs. Top 5 ranked opponents and owns the best win percentage vs. Top 5 opponents amongst active players (.735, 83-30).
* Sharapova is bidding to become the third player to complete an Indian Wells and Miami title sweep in the same year (last year she finished as runner-up at both events). To date, only 2 players (Clijsters, Graf) have completed the sweep.
* Sharapova has won 11-straight matches and 22-straight sets, the most consecutive sets won in her career. In those 22 sets, she has dropped 2 or fewer games 13 times.
* Sharapova defeated Errani in the QF in 2 hours, 29 minutes, her longest match of 2013. Her previous longest match came in QF at Indian Wells also vs. Errani (2h01m).
* S.Williams has won a tournament record 60 matches at this event (60-7).
* S.Williams is bidding to become the 4th woman in the Open Era to win the same tournament 6 times.
* At 31 years old, S.Williams would become the oldest player to win the title here in Miami. Only one other player has won the title at this event after their 30th birthday: 1986, Chris Evert at 31 years and 2 months old.
* S.Williams is one of 5 players who have defeated Sharapova 5 or more times throughout her career.
U.S. TV: CBS (12pm live)
SCHEDULE – SATURDAY, 30 MARCH, 2013
STADIUM start 12:00 pm
 S Williams (USA) vs  M Sharapova (RUS) – WTA – Singles Final
 M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) vs  A Qureshi (PAK) / J Rojer (NED) – ATP – Doubles Final
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Serena and Sharapova Into Sony Miami Final; Friday Preview
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