Having watched Williams surmount the rigors of pregnancy, childbirth and serious postpartum complications in the past 17 months, it's tempting to view a pectoral muscle issue as a relatively small speed bump. "Right now I can't actually serve so it's kind of hard to play", she said.
Williams was playing her first grand slam in 16 months and only her third tournament of 2018 after giving birth to daughter Olympia in September, while Sharapova dealt with an arm injury this year and still sought top form after returning from a drug suspension in April 2017.
It has been nearly 2-1/2 years since Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova last faced off across the net but when it comes to these two great on-court foes, absence does not make the heart grow fonder. She's was really hoping she'd get better, she continued. "I just feel like it's only going to do better". "The fact that I physically can't serve at all is a good indication that maybe I should just go back to the drawing board and stay positive".
"It's been a while, and I think a lot has happened in our lives for the both of us in very different ways", said Sharapova.
If Sharapova, now 31, is ever going to get another victory over Williams, 36, this might the best chance to do it, given that the American has played a total of seven matches all season. But the first visible clues that something was amiss surfaced in the third set of her doubles match with sister Venus on Sunday. It's her first quarterfinal appearance at a major since the 2016 Australian Open, where she lost to Williams in straight sets. "I put everything on the court - all for this moment - so it's really hard to be in this situation".
And, hypothesized Sharapova, it's the reason why Williams wracked up that 19-2 record against her. "First time I took a racket in my hand I played like this". But it's the fulcrum for her game, and a frustrating interruption.
Williams owns three French Open championships, Sharapova two.
They are two of tennis's most successful players, but also so much more.
Sharapova has won just two of their 21 meetings, including the 2004 Wimbledon final which she covered in some detail in her autobiography released previous year.
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