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The next great tennis rivalry had arrived — or so many people thought.However, Sharapova’s 2004 win at the WTA Tour Championships was the last time she won a professional match against Williams.
But she made her way through the draw, notching a comeback win in the semifinals after being a set down against American Lindsay Davenport, who was seeded fifth.
From 2002 to 2003, when Sharapova was just coming onto the scene, that player was Serena Williams.
Williams had just come off what’s known as the “Serena Slam,” a term she coined herself after she won four consecutive Grand Slam tournaments but not within the same calendar year (the term riffs on “Grand Slam,” which a player achieves when she consecutively sweeps the four annual grand slam tournaments — the Australian Open in January, the French Open in May, Wimbledon in July, and the US Open in August/September — in a single calendar year).
When any player displays the kind of dominance that Williams did, they tend to evolve the overall narrative of tennis.
While sportswriters and fans inevitably exalt the player’s dominance and measure them against the greatest players in history, those same sportswriters and fans also exhibit an antsy urge to find the greatest player: the up-and-comer who can challenge — and even beat — the sport’s current leader.