Despite the dropouts, the flopouts and burnouts, the Sony Open has ended up with a pretty nice finale in the womens championship match.
Serena Williams, ranked No. 1 in the world, and Maria Sharapova, ranked No.2, will meet at high noon Saturday on Stadium Court at the Tennis Center at Crandon Park.
Sharapova has been on the edge of the cliff of winning this tournament, making five finals, but she has never been able to make the leap over that edge to victory. The big trophy has eluded her grasp. Each of those five times, she has had to settle for that so-frustrating runner-up trophy.
Five-time Sony champion Williams goes in as the favorite Saturday, particularly after sister Venus and Victoria Azarenka dropped out. And, if everything else fails, Serena might have one additional advantage working for her she might befuddle Sharapova.
Of her 6-0, 6-3 semifinal victory against Agnieszka Radwanska, Williams said, A lot of things in my head were going crazy, but, just steady. Slow and steady hopefully wins the race.
On the surface, Williams has not been unbeatable in this tournament. In one match, she was down 2-6, 1-4, and then put on her game face and won the fourth-round match against Dominika Cibulkova. Tennis, as most players will tell you, is very much about game face.
And, if you look at the history of this tournament, Williams game face has very much been a dominant one.
Williams style works both ways: Get down, bounce back. Be ahead, smack the ball harder and harder and punish the opponent.
When you work so hard, you expect to get results, and so thats how it always is for me, Williams said.
Of her opponent, Williams said, I think Maria is doing a stellar job with being consistent.
Williams has dominated Sharapova, but that doesnt mean there is any easing up to be allowed.
Every match, for sure, is a new match, Williams said. I just feel like I love playing her. I just love being on the opposite side, because she just brings out a good game. I just love the challenge of playing someone who has made history and is doing so well. I just want to play well against a great player.
Playing against Sharapova, Williams definitely has performed well. In career matches, Williams has an 11-2 edge on Sharapova, and Williams has won the past 10 matches.
Those statistics aside, Sharapova will be trying to forget the past and concentrate on the present and battling Serenas serve and groundstrokes.
Shes a tremendous athlete, so much power, Sharapova said. And shes a confident player, as well.
Sharapova might be searching for some of that confidence that Williams exudes.
I dont know who has been in five finals of this event in the womens draw, so its certainly a big consistent for me at this tournament, but yet I havent won it, Sharapova said.
Then Sharapova concluded with the bottom line: It would mean a lot for me to be the champion here.