The 2004 Wimbledon Championships is one of the more memorable editions of the tournament – and that’s saying something. But one of the reasons it is fondly looked back upon is because the matches heralded a changing of the guard. In the men’s singles final, Roger Federer won his second Wimbledon title, beating Andy Roddick. The win proved Federer was here to stay and that his 2003 win was no one-off. However, the women’s singles final also saw a new star being crowned. Most expected Serena Williams to dominate and take home the title. Few if any thought a young upstart by the name of Maria Sharapova would cause an upset. But she did, beating Williams in straight sets to win her maiden Grand Slam aged 17.
With 17 years having passed since, let us look back at the moment Sharapova announced herself to the world.
The younger Williams sister was the favourite coming into the tournament. That being said, there were other competitiors who were seen as capable of beating Williams.
One of them was obviously elder sister Venus. But there was also Amelie Mauresmo, Lindsay Davenport, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Jennifer Capriati.
Both cruised through the first four rounds in fairly easy fashion. Williams, in fact, did not drop a single set until the semi-final. Her first four round wins were all dominant.
She beat Zheng Jie 6-3, 6-1 to start the tournament and then beat Stephanie Foretz 6-0, 6-4. In the third round she beat Maria Serna 6-4, 6-0 and then made it to the quarters by beating Tatiana Golovin 6-2, 6-1.
Maria Sharapova too did not drop a set in the first four rounds. She beat Yuliya Beygelzimer 6-2, 6-1 then beat England’s own Anne Keothavong 6-4, 6-0.
In the third round, she saw off Daniela Hantuchova 6-3, 6-1 and then beat 31st seed Amy Frazier 6-4, 7-5 to book her place in the quarters.
In the quarters, Williams saw off Capriati 6-1, 6-1 before doing the same against Mauresmo. However, the semi-final saw her drop her first set of the tournament. It wasn’t enough to stop her momentum though.
Sharapova, on the other hand, played out two three-setters to make the final. In the quarters, she came back from a set down to beat Ai Sugiyama 5-7, 7-5, 6-1.
In the semi-finals, she saw off Davenport – again after going a set down. The veteran took the first set 6-2 but Sharapova fought back, eventually winning 2-6, 7-6 (7), 6-1.
Thus the stage was set. Williams vs Sharapova would be the match to decide the Wimbledon 2004 champion.
The match was set to be an interesting clash of styles. Serena’s power game was well-known at the time, given she had won the last two Wimbledon Championships.
However, Sharapova liked to be aggressive too and her flat groundstrokes were not easy to return when well-placed. This was evident early in the final.
Watching on, fans wouldn’t have been able to guess that this was Sharapova’s first Grand Slam final appearance. She went on the offence early on, being aggressive on her returns.
This approach clearly dazed Williams, who made more errors than she would have liked. To make matters worse, Sharapova herself was hitting winners aplenty. She duly took the first set 6-1.
Knowing the final was on the line, Williams fought back hard in the second set. She even broke Sharapova’s serve, and at one point led the second set 4-2. Little did she know that was to be the last game she won in the match.
Sharapova broke right back and then held her own serve, meaning the score was back level at 4-4. The game after this was what sealed the final.
Sharapova raced to a 0-40 lead, meaning she had three break points and potentially one hand on the trophy. But Williams levelled the score at 40-40 before the two went back and forth, gaining the advantage then losing a point to drop back on deuce.
Sharapova would eventually break Williams for the second time and then held serve when serving for the game. Thus she was the new Wimbledon champion.
Her reaction to the win said it all. She fell to the grass, then shook hands with her opponent before running to her father in the stands. She then tried to call her mother on a cell phone but found no reception.
That was the only thing she failed at on the day. But Maria Sharapova was now a household tennis name in her own right.