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Serena Williams calls parts of Maria Sharapova’s book ‘100 percent hearsay’

Ahead of their upcoming match, Serena Williams discusses Maria Sharapova's book, why she doesn't look at herself as the favorite and much more.

Serena Williams called what she read of Maria Sharapova‘s book “100 percent hearsay” and mentioned Sharapova’s doping ban twice while also saying she “doesn’t have any negative feelings” toward Sharapova, whom she deemed the favorite in their French Open fourth-round match Monday.

Williams spent about half of her nine-minute press conference after Saturday’s third-round win answering questions about Sharapova and their relationship.

Williams’ on-court credentials are unrivaled -- 23 Grand Slam singles titles to Sharapova’s five and a 19-2 head-to-head record -- but both have been among the marquee female athletes in fame and earning power over the last decade-plus, a stretch where they have verbally clashed.

Williams was asked Saturday about Sharapova’s 2017 autobiography, specifically where the Russian wrote that Williams, “hated me for being the skinny kid who beat her, against all odds, at Wimbledon [in 2004]. But mostly, I think she hated me for hearing her cry [in the locker room afterward].”

“I think the book was 100 percent hearsay, at least all the stuff that I read and the quotes that I read, which was a little bit disappointing,” Williams said. “But I’ve cried in the locker room many times after a loss. That’s what I’ve seen a lot of people do, and I think it’s normal. I think, if anything, it shows the passion and the desire and the will that you have to want to go out there and do the best. It’s a Wimbledon final. I think it would be more shocking if I wasn’t in tears. I am emotional, and I do have emotions, and I wear them on my sleeve. I’m human.

“I think what happens there should definitely, maybe, stay there and not necessarily talk about it in a not-so-positive way in a book.”

Williams goes for her 19th straight win over Sharapova on Monday in their first meeting since the 2016 Australian Open. Sharapova took a drug test shortly before that match, tested positive for meldonium and served a 15-month ban. By the time Sharapova returned in April 2017, Williams was pregnant, taking a 13-month maternity leave to have daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. on Sept. 1.

“Quite frankly [Sharapova’s] probably a favorite in this match, for sure,” said Williams, who played four WTA Tour matches in March before coming to Roland Garros for her first Grand Slam in 16 months. “She’s been playing for over a year now. I just started.

“I always get inspired by other women that are doing well. Before her incident of drugs or not, I feel like she was doing good before that. Now she is again. I’ve never had any hard feelings toward her.”

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FRENCH OPEN: TV/Stream Schedule | Scores | Men’s Draw (PDF) | Women’s Draw