French Open 2013: Keys for Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova in Women's Final

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French Open 2013: Keys for Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova in Women's Final
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Fans at Roland Garros are fortunate to get the women's final that everyone was looking for in No. 1 Serena Williams against No. 2 Maria Sharapova.

Unfortunately, this "rivalry" has been a bit one-sided over the years. Williams has won 13 of 15 career matches against the Russian opponent and has not lost since 2004.

On the other hand, Sharapova has historically been better on clay and enters the match as the defending champion at the French Open. If she ever has a chance to get a win in this battle, now is a good time to do it.

Still, both sides will have a hard time if they do not follow these keys to victory.

 

Maria Sharapova

Get First Serve In Play

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Throughout her career, Sharapova has struggled due to her big drop-off after her first serve. This season, she has won 72.3 percent of points on her first serve but only 46.3 percent on her second serve.

Against Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals, the drop-off was from 72 percent to 29 percent.

The problem is not only a difference in speed, but also location. The talented player becomes afraid to hit the ball to the edges and serves directly at her opponent, providing an easy return opportunity.

Then again, she did also have 11 double faults against Azarenka, so maybe it is smart to simply get the serve in play.

In reality, the issue starts with the first serve. If she can get closer to 70 percent of her first serves into the action, she will have a much better day on the court.

 

Do Not Be Overaggressive

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Sharapova has not been too successful coming up to the net during this tournament, especially in the recent matches. Instead, she utilizes her agility to get to balls on the back line.

This strategy is not a problem against Williams, who will certainly test the No. 2 seed with such a strong forehand.

Additionally, Sharapova has racked up a high number of unforced errors throughout the tournament. If not for her strong play in other areas, these mistakes would have knocked her out by now.

She will not have this ability to overcome errors against the American. She has to focus on every hit and make sure she can keep the ball in play. 

Williams is good enough to win on her own, Sharapova has to make sure she does not help her opponent out.

 

Serena Williams

Keep The Match Short

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Williams has cruised through most matches in this tournament (and most matches over the past year) in straight sets. She has much less experience in three-set matches than the Russian competitor.

Also, the fact that the top seed is getting up there in age at 31 years old could also be an issue. She does not have the fitness she once had, and it could lead to struggles late in a long match.

It is clear that a long match would not work in her favor if it came to that. While it is unlikely that she is able to finish Sharapova off in 46 minutes like she did against Sara Errani in the semifinals, Williams should do her best to come close to that mark.

This might mean being more aggressive with shots to end rallies, but she must do whatever it takes to keep this contest short.

 

Win With the Serve

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When these two competitors face each other, the biggest difference is the serving ability of Williams. She is consistently able to top 100 mph with her serve, and Sharapova simply cannot handle the return.

In their most recent match, the American had three aces, although she is often able to get six or more against Sharapova.

This is where Williams must do the most damage in the French Open final. She has to make sure she puts her shots in places where no return is even possible.

It would honestly be surprising if Sharapova is able to get more than one or two breaks in this match. If this number is any higher, Williams will be in a lot of trouble. 

 

Rob Goldberg is a member of Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team. Follow him on Twitter for the latest updates.

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