Battle of the Babes: Maria 'The Screamer' Sharapova v Ana 'The Shrieker' Ivanovic


Last updated at 21:42 24 January 2008

Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic, two 20-year-olds who have helped bring glamour back to women's tennis, will face each other in 'The Battle of the Babes' on Saturday after winning their semi-finals at Melbourne Park.

Who will have the audio edge - judge for yourself here:

Click here for The Screamer

Click here for The Shrieker

On the face of it, the

powerbrokers of women's

tennis might be concerned

about the preponderance of

top players with difficult-to-pronounce names who emanate from

grim corners of Eastern Europe.

But when you play like they do, speak

different languages so impeccably and —

this is important, rightly or wrongly — look

like they do, it is the marketing men's


Sharapova delight

So imagine their delight that the Australian

Open final will be between Maria Sharapova

and Ana Ivanovic, with the former the clear


Sharapova was far more convincing in

her semi-final with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over

Jelena Jankovic, while Ivanovic needed to

rely on the notoriously brittle nerve of

Daniela Hantuchova to win 0-6, 6-3, 6-4.

The two finalists have much in common —

both had displaced upbringings so their

tennis talent, spotted when they were

very young, could be honed.

It is well known that Sharapova moved

from Siberia to Florida when she was

nine, slightly less so that Ivanovic was

shifted from Belgrade to Roger Federer's

hometown of Basle at 14.

Such upheaval inevitably shaped the

Russian into the hard-faced character she

is, driven on remorselessly by her father

Yuri — warned for his aggressive

courtside behaviour earlier in the

tournament — who arrived in America

with less than $1,000 in his pocket.

Mother Yelena is rarely seen and

yesterday there was a reminder of just

how much was sacrificed in Maria's

upbringing as she allowed herself a rare

reflection on her mum's role.

'When I first went to the United States, I

didn't see her for two years,' she recalled of

the visa and money problems that forced

their separation.

'I barely talked to her on the phone. You

didn't have great communication back then

but I always remember her writing me

letters and I'd write her letters. We talked

maybe once in six months.

'I remember the day that I saw her after

those two years. She just looked at me and

it was like “Oh my, you've changed so


'It's weird because it's not like she saw me

on TV like she does now. It would be so much

tougher if I had to do it now.

'She just kept me working on my Russian

essays and made me read. And she's

the one that always takes me to museums

and she knows when exhibitions are going

on. She'll take me to musicals. She's a very

wonderful woman.

Ivanovic celebrates

'When I'm done with tournaments, I see

her. She sometimes comes the week before

Grand Slams. She takes care of things at

home and does my fan mail and all that.'

There are obviously clear lines of

demarcation in the household, to put it

mildly, but it has produced a fearsomely

talented athlete.

Freed from last year's shoulder problems,

she now looks on the brink of adding to her

Wimbledon 2004 title and U.S. Open title of


Jankovic was slightly injured in the

semi-final but it is doubtful she would have lived

with Sharapova anyway on this form and

Ivanovic will have to improve considerably

to compete.

Dubbed 'Aussie Ana' by some here — she

has relatives in Melbourne and has a daily

ghosted newspaper column — Ivanovic will

not lack support. She has a more appealing

personality, too.

SHE has a 2-2 career record against

Sharapova, which includes the

thrashing she gave her in last year's

French Open when the Russian was

physically struggling.

The 20-year-old Serb went on to flop in her

first Grand Slam final, against Justine Henin,

and has to start quicker than yesterday if

she is not to do so again.

It took her 45 minutes to win a game

against the elegant Slovakian who

eventually fell apart in a welter of negative

thought from 4-4 in the third.

In fact, Hantuchova was so irritated as

Ivanovic clawed her way back that she

complained to the umpire about the

squeaking from her opponent's

rubber-soled shoe as they

moved over the surface of the


Inevitably, this has led to the

final being dubbed The

Squeak versus The Shriek due

to Sharapova's far more

obnoxious emissions as she hits

the ball.

'I have now got the experience

from the French final and I know that I

am going to have to be there from the first

point,' said Ivanovic, who has guaranteed

that she will move up to the world No 2 spot

when the new rankings come out next