'She's the favourite': Williams readies for Sharapova at French Open

Serena Williams is ranked 453rd in the world, is unseeded in the French Open and is now set to face Maria Sharapova in the fourth round of the tournament Monday. Next for Williams as she competes in a major tournament for the first time in 16 months - and since giving birth in September - will be a familiar foe, Maria Sharapova.

Maybe the end of Williams's road will come Monday afternoon, when she faces longtime foe and five-time Grand Slam victor Maria Sharapova in a fourth-round match as intriguing as tennis fans could hope for.

After answering a routine question about her form in the 6-3 6-4 win over 11th seed Julia Gorges in the last 32, Williams suddenly found herself confronting a question about United States president Donald Trump's alleged views on her and Sharapova from 14 years ago.

For the moment, that looks like a wise decision, and she has already eliminated two seeded players in Paris: No. 17 Ashleigh Barty, in a tough three-set match in the second round, and now Görges, a veteran German player with one of the best serves in women's tennis.

Sharapova and Williams have met 21 times, with the American leading the head-to-head record 19-2 after 18 consecutive wins dating back to 2004.

"I think any time you play against Serena you know what you're up against", she started. "I'm just going to go out there and enjoy myself".

Serena Williams of the USA celebrates as she defeats Germany's Julia Georges during their third round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium, Saturday, June 2, 2018 in Paris.

Williams had played only four matches since taking time off due to pregnancy before arriving at Roland Garros.

On Saturday, Williams called the idea that she had been in tears after a loss normal and added, "I didn't expect to be reading a book about me that wasn't necessarily true".

"I think the name Williams carries a lot of weight at Grand Slams", Goerges told SID, an AFP subsidiary.

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"I was one of the few people that said that she was courageous to say something", said Williams referring to Sharapova's "drug incident".

"It's a fun suit, but it's also functional so I'm able to play without any problems".

Williams is 12-2 in the third round during her career at the tournament.

Former champion Garbine Muguruza reached the last 16 with a comfortable 6-0, 6-2 win over Australia's Sam Stosur.

"Quite frankly, she's probably a favourite in this match, for sure", Williams said with a smile, knowing full well no one believed her.

Against Pliskova at Court Philippe Chatrier, Sharapova held an 18-5 edge in winners and broke the 2016 U.S. Open runner-up in five of her seven service games.

"Any time you play against Serena you know what you're up against", said the 31-year-old. "Numbers don't lie", said the Russian five-time Grand Slam champion.

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The way in which Sharapova sent down winners down the line and displayed powerful shots to win her points evoked memories of her early days as a player and sent out a clear message that she was here for the long haul and could possibly end up winning the title.

Meanwhile, adding even more spice to Monday's duel in the dust at Court Philippe Chatrier is Williams's assertion that Sharapova is nearly obsessed by the American who is named more than 100 times in "Unstoppable".

  • Regina Holmes