They'll call the Olympic men's gold-medal match a "dream final," but that's only half true. The Roger Federer-Andy Murray meeting is nearly perfect; yet the international press would have been saying the same thing if Novak Djokovic had defeated the Scotsman to set up another Wimbledon clash with Federer. There were storylines either way.
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On the other hand, the women's gold-medal contest, to be played Saturday at 9 a.m. ET on Centre Court at the All England Club, is as good as it gets. Serena Williams, the 14-time Grand Slam winner and reigning Wimbledon champion, faces four-time major winner and international superstar Maria Sharapova. The two biggest names in women's tennis, by now elder stateswomen of the game, battling for a gold medal and a chance to become the first woman since Steffi Graf to win the career Golden Slam (career wins in all four major titles and a gold medal) on the most hallowed grounds in tennis.
Yet this dream final could turn into a nightmare very quickly for Maria Sharapova.
The Russian hasn't defeated Serena since her memorable 2004 when, as a 17-year-old at Wimbledon, she stunned the top-seeded Williams at Wimbledon and capped it off with a year-end victory at the WTA championships. Serena hasn't lost to her since, winning seven straight meetings, including one at Wimbledon in 2010. In the last six matches against Sharapova, Serena's dropped just one set.
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Sharapova is one of the most mentally tough players on tour. Nobody plays from behind better or is as consistently fearless throughout a match. Only two things are sure to trip her up: A dicey serve and Serena. Maria has a Serena problem. Everyone knows it. Worst of all, she knows it, and this only exacerbates he condition.
If history is any indication, this match was over the instant Serena defeated world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, 6-1, 6-2. Serena is 12-0 this year at Wimbledon and has played almost flawless tennis, save for some temporary mental lapses in the third and fourth rounds. She'll continue the run on Saturday and hoist the first singles gold medal of her illustrious career.
Prediction: Serena Williams d. Maria Sharapova, 6-0, 6-4
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- Maria Sharapova