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Maria Sharapova believes Serena Williams changes her game when the pair meet, but is ready for the challenge ahead of a potential final at Foro Italico next Saturday.
Second seed Sharapova is looking to retain the title she won here last year but in-form Serena promises to be a big test after the American won in Madrid to make it 13 straight clay court match victories in 2012.
Sharapova has won just two of nine meetings in the battle of the big servers and sees Serena as a big threat to her title.
“I see some of her previous matches and then she plays against me and produces 13 aces,” joked the Russian. “What about the other matches? I am flattered that she likes to do that against me. She is serving very well and playing a second serve ace is also very tough for her as she goes for the lines. Clay court rallies are especially hard because they are long but obviously you have to believe you are strong.”
Sharapova won in Stuttgart this year to provide belief that another title in Rome is possible, and the memories of last year’s final triumph against Samantha Stosur are still fresh in the mind.
“I’m feeling much more comfortable,” said Sarapova. “This time last year I started to pick up my confidence. I was able to adjust my racquet and my coach. It took a while to start feeling comfortable but I was able to find my ground and it was a good win here especially because I beat some good players.
“When you play on clay then the season is short and you need to be physically ready. You often have five days in a row with three hour matches and so I have improved on recovering effectively. I understand my own body and I know how long it takes me to recover.”