Perhaps the most lopsided “rivalry” in sports remains compelling despite Williams’ 6-1, 6-1 drubbing of Sharapova in Monday’s opening round at the US Open, a victory that encapsulated her dominance over the five-time grand slam champion.
With the win, Williams improved her all-time record against Sharapova to 20-2, a mark that defies any notion that there is an actual rivalry between the two tennis titans on the court.
Williams-Sharapova feud runs deep
But make no doubt. This is a rivalry, despite the lopsided results and Williams’ relatively kind words for Sharapova after Monday’s thrashing.
“She’s such a good player,” Williams told ESPN of Sharapova after her 59-minute victory. “When you play her, you have to be super focused. So every time I come up against her, I just bring out some of my best tennis.”
Serena’s husband trolls Sharapova’s drug ban
While Williams was spouting niceties, her husband Alexis Ohanian was bringing the heat in the stands.
After Williams secured the victory, Ohanian unbuttoned his jacket to reveal a D.A.R.E shirt underneath.
For those of you who didn’t grow up in the 80s and 90s, D.A.R.E. was an arm of the largely ineffective “war on drugs” fear campaign aimed at elementary school children in the United States.
The iconic T-Shirt associated with the campaign made for top-level troll material on Monday with Ohanian clearly targeting Sharapova, who received a suspension in 2016 for testing positive for banned substance meldonium after the Australian Open.
The failed test just so happened to occur after Sharapova’s straight sets loss to Williams in Melbourne, the last time the two met on the court.
History of Serena-Sharapova feud
Since her ban, Sharapova has published an autobiography titled “Unstoppable: My Life So Far” that included a section on perhaps her crowning tennis achievement, a 2004 victory over Williams in the Wimbledon final.
She wrote about following Williams into the locker room to find her sobbing post-match and hearing through the grapevine that Williams had it out for her because of it.
“Mostly I think she hated me for hearing her cry,” Sharapova wrote. “Not long after the tournament, I heard Serena told a friend – who then told me – ‘I will never lose to that little b—- again.’”
Williams responded to the book, calling it “100 percent hearsay” and “a little bit disappointing” while expressing surprise at how much of the book was about her.
“Well, yeah, I mean, you know, as a fan, I wanted to read the book and I was really excited for it to come out and I was really happy for her,” Williams said. “And then the book was a lot about me. I was surprised about that, to be honest.”
It’s just the latest barb in a feud that includes the pair taking public shots at each other’s dating lives and a debate over whether Sharapova deserved the endorsement riches she received that long outpaced Williams’.
Yes, it’s a rivalry
So while Monday’s latest lopsided result on the court has reinvigorated cries that Williams-Sharapova is far from anything meeting the definition of rivalry, Ohanian’s T-shirt declares otherwise.
The feud between the two continues to simmer, even the win-loss record implies otherwise.