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Five of the best WTA rivalries of the present

Abigail Johnson in News 18 Nov 2015

Every era has its champions. And every champion has their rivals. Here, we look at five of the best rivalries in the present era of women's tennis: Some just starting out, and others that have spun legendary tales across long lengths of time.

Note: Not all rivalries considered great could be recorded! For the sake of variation, each player is only allowed two features at most.

5. SIMONA HALEP VS GARBINE MUGURUZA

At the beginning of its story, this head-to-head has all the potential to be legendary. 

Romania's Simona Halep and Spaniard Garbine Muguruza have been the breakout young superstars of the past few years. The now-24-year-old Halep blasted out of nowhere to win her first six WTA titles in the back end of 2013, before reaching her first Grand Slam and WTA Finals finals in 2014, and upping her ranking still further to end 2015 at world no. 2. Muguruza, meanwhile, was a teenage giant-slayer before being derailed by injury, and after re-emerging in 2014 she truly took off the following season. From starting 2015 outside the top 20, she made her first Grand Slam final and won her first Premier title, taking down the elite of the sport in the process and ending the year in the world's top three.

Both are highly passionate players, and share the feat of thrashing world no. 1 Serena Williams at different points during 2014. Simona Halep's strong game - possessing the ability both to counter punch and hit strong from the baseline-  makes for an entertaining mix with Muguruza's firepower and sharp aggression. All three of their meetings have been contested within the past two years - each winning a match in three sets, with Muguruza squeezing out a straight sets victory in between.

With both women ranked at world no.s 2 and 3, respectively, this is surely a match-up we will be seeing many more times in future years.

4. CAROLINE WOZNIACKI VS MARIA SHARAPOVA

A head-to-head that peaked in 2014, this clash of former world no. 1s is always worth watching – and is often unpredictable. Maria Sharapova's powerful baseline game may have seen her to five Grand Slam titles, but Caroline Wozniacki's counter-punching precision has seen her become the most successful woman of that gamestyle on tour. Never one to shy away from a top player, she knows exactly what it takes to shift a champion like the Russian, and her confidence and belief always sets her up well to face the never-say-die giant.

Sharapova leads their head-to-head by a slim 6-4 advantage - and while their first five encounters ended in straight sets, four of their last five have gone the distance. All of these clashes have come on big stages, with all but one being contested at Premier level or above. By calibre, Sharapova has won a whopping six of seven Premier battles – but Wozniacki has won their only two Grand Slam meetings, and their lone clash at the WTA Finals.

3. PETRA KVITOVA VS MARIA SHARAPOVA

Petra Kvitova – the former world no. 2 – is arguably a more dominant player than Maria Sharapova when in-form. The dictating angle on her sharp lefty forehand, her lethal serve and credible backhand are weapons to rival even Serena Williams when she finds form. In two consecutive years she has blown Sharapova off the Singaporean courts of the WTA Finals, putting her aside in straight sets with aggression that out-flew and outdid the Russian.

Yet Maria Sharapova – gifted with a more heavy groundstroke than the 25-year-old, and abundantly able in baseline duels – is by far the more consistent of the pair. Her talent and mental strength cannot be doubted, and the combination of Streaky Petra and Strong Maria is always going to deliver a great performance. In their most recent encounter – at the heart of the Fed Cup final drama – the duo proved just that, with Sharapova rising victorious from a set and a break down.

A 7-4 head-to-head record is one of the lengthiest and closest on tour, and is likely to extend.

2. SERENA WILLIAMS VS VICTORIA AZARENKA

While Maria Sharapova versus Serena Williams – a head-to-head that Williams dominates 18-2 – can no longer seriously be referred to as a rivalry, Williams versus Victoria Azarenka can. Serena may still own a dominant 17-3 advantage on the Belarussian, but Azarenka is one of precious few players who can really push Williams – and even beat her – when the American all-star is on her game.

Their matches have spanned a seven year period, and they have been close from the offset. Azarenka has a confidence, power and consistent game that refuses to back down from arguably the greatest player of all time, and her on-court persona makes her a phenomenal opponent. Off forehand and backhand she can go blow for blow with Serena, and has all the shots in her repertoire to do the lethal 34-year-old damage.

And while she only possesses three wins against the American, Vika has come incredibly close to many more. In 2015, all three matches the duo contested went to three sets, with Azarenka holding three consecutive match points over Serena in the first of these. And who can forget how the 25-year-old sobbed into her towel after serving for the US Open against the legend – and losing four straight games?

Pumped with passion, power and scintillating points, Serena Williams versus Victoria Azarenka is hard to beat.

1. VENUS WILLIAMS VS SERENA WILLIAMS

They reinvented tennis. 

Two teenage sisters from Compton, California, brought lethal groundstrokes and beat-the-ball, stunning power the WTA circuit. And the tour has never looked back. And, as their father predicted, these two sisters went on to hold the world no. 1 and world no. 2 ranking side by side.

Serena Williams is widely regarded the greatest female athlete – let alone tennis player – of all time. Venus Williams is ranked in the top ten at the age of 35, even whilst conducting a daily fight against Sjogren's Syndrome. Their serves – not just lethal, but varied and precise – are the greatest that women's tennis has ever seen, and both still lead the scores of women who followed their lead into the ball-ripping, line-painting world of power tennis.

The sisters have played each other a whopping 27 times – more than any other combination on tour. Serena leads the head-to-head 16-11 - a journey that began in 1998, and currently pauses with two quality Slam contests in 2015. 

Every time they meet, the emotions, the drama and the top class tennis are a guarantee. The Wiliams sisters still have more to give.


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Five of the best WTA rivalries of the present

Every era has their champions, and every champion has their rivals. What are some of the best head-to-heads on the WTA tour right now?

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