Serena, Sharapova Renew Rivalry Tonight at Stanford; Del Potro, Fish Highlight LA QFs
by Sean Randall | July 29th, 2011, 2:56 pm

It’s not often I write about women’s tennis during a non-Slam week and especially before the semifinals, but tonight in Stanford all eyes in tennis will be on a heavyweight quarterfinal showdown between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

The two are by far the two biggest names in women’s tennis and they’ll meet for a ninth time. Serena holds the big lead 6-2 winning the last five over Maria including a 6-1, 6-1 demolition in their last hardcourt meeting at Miami in 2007.

“Just like when I’m playing anyone, I’m going to go out there and do the best I can do – just like she will do,” Serena said last night. “This is a job for me and I’m trying to get paid – I’ve been off a year.”

But Serena is still not back anywhere close to 100% match level after missing nearly a year because of a foot injury and a blood clot. And Stanford is just her third event during this comeback.

Sharapova, who’s been fighting back herself from an injured shoulder, appears to be almost back to full strength, and I have to give her just a slight edge tonight even though she hasn’t beaten Serena since 2004.

Both ladies are coming off three setters in their last match. Serena beat another pretty, blond Russian named Maria yesterday, Kirilenko, 6-2 in the third while Sharapova prevailed over Daniela Hantuchova 6-4 in their three-setter Wednesday.

My feeling is the winner becomes the No. 2 favorite at the US Open behind Kim Clijsters, that is assuming the Belgian fully recovers from her ankle injury.

Down the coast in Los Angeles, Juan Martin Del Potro and Mardy Fish appear headed for a final showdown on Sunday. Today, Del Potro, who won LA in his last appearance in 2009, meets the unpredictable Ernests Gulbis. Fish is on against Igor Kunitsyn.

Also today in the quarterfinals, Ryan Harrison plays Lu and Tomaz Bellucci faces Alex Bogomolov, Jr.

Tennis Channel comes on at 3pm ET with Harrison. ESPN2 will have live coverage of the Fish match at 7pm ET.

Serena and Maria will be shown live on ESPN2 at 11pm ET (I think).

STRAUS STADIUM start 12:00 noon
Y Lu (TPE) vs R Harrison (USA)
[4] J Erlich (ISR) / A Ram (ISR) vs M Baghdatis (CYP) / M Russell (USA)
Not Before 4:00 PM
[1] M Fish (USA) vs [8] I Kunitsyn (RUS)
Not Before 7:30 PM
E Gulbis (LAT) vs [2] J Del Potro (ARG)
S Devvarman (IND) / T Huey (PHI) vs G Muller (LUX) / J Murray (GBR)

GRANDSTAND not before 4:00 PM
A Bogomolov Jr. (USA) vs [4] T Bellucci (BRA)

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16 Comments for Serena, Sharapova Renew Rivalry Tonight at Stanford; Del Potro, Fish Highlight LA QFs

Kimberly Says:

i think the winner becomes the number 1 favorite, unless clijsters actually starts to show some enthusiasm to play tennis. these two love the game, clijsters seemed very complacent in miami and thereafter.

funches Says:

Sharapova can’t be the favorite with his piss-poor, joke of a serve. Why do people not get that? When she was on top of the game, she had one of the best five serves on tour. Now she has one of the worst five serves of anyone in the top 50.

Big difference.

funches Says:

HIs, her, what’s the difference?

Humble Rafa Says:

I think Serena loses this one, Shreikapova’s poor server not withstanding. “The Real #1” has gotten bigger, mostly on the backside. Don’t know what is going on there.

Kimberly Says:

Current wta us open odds, Serena first, the kvitova, then Maria, then clijsters. Hmmmm. Very strange.

Kimberly Says:

Well, not a good start for Maria!

funches Says:

I rest my case.

Why isn’t this obvious to everyone? It’s not like it takes great tennis knowledge to see how awful Sharapova’s serve is.

funches Says:

More garbage, sycophant commentary by Cahill about a fellow Adidas player. He just claimed Gulbis really wants it and that people who say he’s lazy or spoiled are wrong.

Sure, Darren. Everyone else is wrong. Your respect for Gulbis has nothing to do with you having the same shoe company.

Sean Randall Says:

funches, Maria served horrible today. But her serve has been on the upswing the last year or. She couldn’t have won 17 of her 19 coming in w/o. Obviously today it let her down (and Serena played damn well).

Gulbis win was the surprise of the night. That said, I hope is DelPo physically ok.

Kimberly Says:

Sharapova serve the worst I’ve seen since Indian wells this year.

Kimberly Says:

I guess a gulbis fish final would be nice if it happens. This is fish’s tournament to lose now.

funches Says:

Sharapova cannot beat an in-form power player unless she fixes her serve. She just can’t. Kvitova crushed her at Wimbledon. Serena crushed her tonight.

Incredibly, Sharapova has a better shot at Roland Garros now than anywhere else because you can get away with a pathetic serve on clay more easily than on faster surfaces.

Sean Randall Says:

funches, I’d gather a lot of Maria serving issues today were because she was facing Serena. If that is the case then it’s real bad news.

Overall though, you might not believe it but her serve has improved from the lows of a 12-18 months ago.

However, her performance tonight I think was serious setback.

funches Says:

You’re right, I don’t believe it.

Her serve is better than it was at her low point, but she served horribly against Lisicki in the Wimbledon semis, horribly against Kvitova in the final and horribly against Li Na at Roland Garros. It’s not just that she double faults. She also takes a lot of pace off her first serve. That works against 90 percent of the players, but it won’t win her a slam title again.

Take that to the bank, Sean. Just like you should have taken it to the bank when I wrote Del Potro had no chance to win the U.S. Open in 2009. Um, er, maybe not.

Love your strong opinions, by the way. I disagree with you frequently, but your takes always have a solid base.

Sean Randall Says:

funches, agreed. I think Wimbledon may have been her last good shot at a Slam. With the Williams sisters back and some of the young players – Kvitova – already gaining the upper hand it’s going to tough for her to pocket another.

I know Maria’s “only” 24 but my guess is she’ll want to have kids sooner rather than later.

Thanks for the words. I welcome the disagreements and you’ve had some great calls recently. Keep it up!

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