“The women’s final will feature two of the sport’s sweethearts,” Pat O’Brien speaking on the Bravo channel.
I never really thought of Maria Sharapova or Serena Williams as “sweethearts”. Maybe I’ve been watching a different sport than Mr. O’Brien over the last 20 years since both women have struck me as being… well let’s just say that I don’t expect any long-lasting hugs of commiseration between them after tomorrow’s women’s singles final at the Olympics.
Both players have been the dominant forces on tour this year since the spring hardcourt season merged into the clay court trek through Europe and then onto the grass of England. While Sharapova has struggled at times over the last week in her early round matches, Williams has been basically unstoppable as she’s lost only 16 games en route to the finals including today’s swift dismissal of current No. 1 Victoria Azarenka.
It’s probably appropriate that both women are in tomorrow’s final as both have been the most successful, most lauded, and at times, most criticized players of their generation. While the Olympics are always described as being a celebration of the best of what sport has to offer, Sharapova and Williams have throughout their careers being accused, in various moments, of being only focused on the material gain that professional tennis can bring and less on representing their respective countries in international competitions like Fed Cup unless it suits another purpose, in their case qualifying for the Olympics.
With the ITF planning to make Olympic qualification even more stringent in future years, it could well be that this might be the last chance either woman has at Olympic gold considering each is in the prime of their careers rather than in the beginning. Unless of course each is willing to haul themselves out to God knows where to compete in Fed Cup on multiple occasions so that they have a chance for the medals in Rio four years from now.
No matter. Each women knows that a “Golden Slam” would put them in the rarefied air of Steffi Graf and distance themselves from the other in terms of tennis history. Nerves might play a factor, but it’s likely both women will lay it all on the line to prove themselves as the very best. Sharapova’s career was made when she beat Williams in the Wimbledon finals back in 2004 and Williams has never forgotten it, hence her almost perfect record against the Russian since then. Still Sharapova might find inspiration again on the same Centre Court that made her a household name. Whatever happens, it’s a sure fact that these “sweethearts of the rodeo” that is tennis will continue to make a name for themselves, long after the dust of the Summer Games has settled.