The much-anticipated clash between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova turned out to be a total mismatch. Serena absolutely destroyed Sharapova 6-1, 6-3 in the quarterfinals last night in Stanford.
I have to say I’m a little surprised not by Serena’s win but by her complete domination. Maria had won 17 of her last 19 matches while the 164th-ranked Serena was playing in just her third tournament in her comeback.
But as she so often does in big matches Serena rose up to the challenge and sent an undeniable statement that in this latest comeback, she’s for real.
“Playing someone in the Top 10 or Top 5, you have to be serious. This tells me I can compete with them,” Serena said. “I’m still climbing though. It’s just one match. It’s not the US Open, it’s not Wimbledon, it’s not a Grand Slam – but it’s still a great win for the hardcourt season and it’s a big event.”
Serena has won six straight over her Russian rival and leads overall 7-2. The last time Maria beat Serena was back in 2004, and after this crushing loss it’s hard to see Sharpie getting back on top over her American counterpart anytime soon.
“It’s sport. You win some, you lose some. You move on,” Sharapova. “It certainly wasn’t my day today. She was serving and returning quite powerfully, and I felt I was extremely late. I didn’t have my timing today at all. Even when I had chances to change things around, I didn’t do it.
“Serena has come back before. She’s experienced enough to come back ready to play. She waited for the right time. When she comes back, she’s ready.”
Serena moves on to play Sabine Liscki and she’ll need to avoid a letdown to beat the big-serving German tonight. It’s easy to find motivation against Maria, so playing Lisicki will be an interesting test for Serena. In the early semifinal Marion Bartoli battles Dominka Cibulova.
Down in LA, we have an Ernests Gulbis sighting. The mercurial Gulbis is suddenly playing some decent tennis again. Last night Gulbis comprehensively took out tournament favorite Juan Martin Del Potro 6-2, 6-4.
Gulbis was on a 5-match losing streak before LA, now he’ll be the favorite in his semifinal tonight against Alex Bogomolov, Jr.
In the afternoon semi, red hot Mardy Fish takes on teen Ryan Harrison in a rematch of their semifinal last week in Atlanta. Fish won that one pretty easily and I think he’ll win this one as well.
The 19-year-old Harrison has enjoyed a promising summer already reaching SFs in Atlanta and now Los Angeles. While he hasn’t exactly been beating the best – his top ranking win was over Malisse – if he upsets Fish today look for the hype machine to really go full throttle.
Tennis Channel has live coverage of Fish v. Harrison at 5pm ET. ESPN2 will likely have a live split broadcast of Serena/Gulbis at 7:30pm ET.
SATURDAY STANFORD SCHEDULE
Stadium (from 13.00hrs)
1. Dominika Cibulkova vs. Marion Bartoli
2. Goerges/Zahlavova Strycova vs. Azarenka/Kirilenko
3. Sabine Lisicki vs. Serena Williams (NB 19.00hrs)
4. Huber/Raymond vs. Aoyama/Fujiwara
SATURDAY LA SCHEDULE
STRAUS STADIUM start 2:00 pm
 M Fish (USA) vs R Harrison (USA)
 M Knowles (BAH) / X Malisse (BEL) vs Y Lu (TPE) / F Moser (GER)
Not Before 7:30 PM
A Bogomolov Jr. (USA) vs E Gulbis (LAT)
S Devvarman (IND) / T Huey (PHI) vs  J Erlich (ISR) / A Ram (ISR)
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