An Australian Open which has seen the end of some notable losing streaks will need to see another for Maria Sharapova to prevent Serena Williams creating more tennis history in Melbourne.
Tomas Berdych ended a 17-match losing streak against Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals and Andreas Seppi won his first match against Roger Federer at the 11th attempt to cause the shock of the tournament.
And in the first Australian Open final between the top two seeds since 2004, Sharapova will look to end her 15-match losing sequence against Williams which also stretches back almost 11 years.
There is a ray of hope for Sharapova in the fact that Williams has been struggling with a heavy cold and cough for several days, the American also pictured receiving treatment on her left ankle before cutting short a practice session on Friday morning.
At 33 years and four months Williams is the oldest Melbourne finalist in the open era, eclipsing the record held by Chris Evert by three months, and a 19th grand slam title on Saturday would give her one more than Evert and Martina Navratilova. Steffi Graf holds the open era record with 22.
Asked why she had such a poor record against Williams, Sharapova said: “I think her power and her aggressiveness, I think that’s always made me a little bit too aggressive, maybe going for a little bit more than I had to.
“She’s great at making players hit that shot that you don’t necessarily have to go for, maybe going for a little too much, going on the line. It’s been a really difficult match-up for me, but, you know, I am a competitor. I will go out and I will do everything I can to try to change that result around.
“I think my confidence should be pretty high going into a final of a grand slam no matter who I’m facing and whether I’ve had a terrible record, to say the least, against someone. It doesn’t matter. I got there for a reason. I belong in that spot. I will do everything I can to get the title.”
Reigning French Open champion Sharapova won the Australian Open in 2008 and has collected a total of five grand slam titles, while Williams has won all five finals she has contested in Melbourne, although the last of those was in 2010.
Williams insists she will ignore her dominant record against Sharapova, who saved two match points in her second round match with Alexandra Panova but has not dropped a set and lost just 15 games since.
“Maria is playing great,” Williams said. “She’s in the tournament only because she’s a fighter and only because she refuses to give up. It’s a new match. She has nothing to lose, once again. She has only things to gain.
“And I feel that way, too. I’ve won this tournament several times. I don’t have to go out there and have another title. I want it, but it’s not life or death for me. I think that helps me relax. She absolutely has nothing to lose, and I have nothing to lose, so it will be fun.
“I think my game matches up well against her. I love playing her. I think it’s fun. I love her intensity. For whatever reason, I love playing. I just have the time of my life.
“It’s going to be important for me to get off to a good start, I think. With that being said, if not, I’m going to be ready to fight. I think she really wants this. I can see that she wants to do well. She wants to improve her game. She wants to take it to the next level. I have to know that she wants to win probably a lot.”