Maria Sharapova is ready to renew her rivalry with Serena Williams in 2018 and believes the pair have ‘many years’ ahead of them at the top of the sport.
The Russian returned from a 15-month doping ban in April but did not cross paths with her old foe who was absent from the WTA Tour due to pregnancy.
After giving birth to her daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr in September, Serena is now targeting a remarkable return to action at the Australian Open as she looks to defend her only title of 2017.
Williams won the first Grand Slam of the year while pregnant with her first child and secured her 23rd major title – an Open Era record.
With the 36-year-old plotting her comeback, Sharapova is hoping to be back to her best after what’s been a stop-start return to tennis.
Sharapova did claim her first title of the year on Sunday at the Tianjin Open but her season ended on a disappointing note as she crashed out in the first round of the Kremlin Cup to Magdalena Rybarikova.
But the five-time Grand Slam champion is feeling confident that she has the hunger to compete at the very top of the sport again and is eyeing the opportunity to test herself against Williams in the coming years.
‘If strength and health are there, I will still be on the tour for a long time,’ she said after her 7-6 6-4 loss in Moscow.
‘You can see my love for the sport. I am trying to improve and win. Me and Serena have many years ahead of us.’
Reflecting on her year, she added: ‘I had a difficult period due to the ban.
‘And then physically, it’s always difficult to get used to the routine of matches and practice sessions again if you didn’t do it for a long time.
‘But I got special wins like against Simona Halep at the US Open and won my first title in a long time in Tianijn.’
Sharapova is without a win against Williams since 2004, when the Russian led their head-to-head 2-1. It now reads 19-2 in the American’s favour, in what’s been a very one-sided rivalry so far.