Wimbledon: Ruthless Serena fires a warning shot at rival Sharapova
Maria Sharapova has confirmed she wants a crack at nemesis Serena Williams in the Wimbledon quarter-finals.
The Russian and the American have individually carried women's tennis to new heights over the last decade, but the rivalry has been overwhelmingly dominated by Williams, rather than becoming the anticipated tug of war for supremacy.
Sharapova last overcame Williams in the final of the 2004 Tour Championships, four months after first achieving the feat as a 17-year-old to land the Wimbledon title.
It has been all Williams ever since, posting 15 straight victories over Sharapova and dropping just three sets in the process.
With Williams the top seed and Sharapova number five, the tournament draw threw up the tantalising prospect of the pair meeting in the last eight, and they remained on collision course following crushing wins in the second round on Thursday.
Sharapova breezed by Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky, easing to a 6-2 6-1 victory, while Williams won 6-1 6-1 against South African Chanelle Scheepers.
"I haven't had a chance to watch too many of her matches," Sharapova said.
"But it doesn't really matter. She's been here. She's done it many, many times.
"If we do get to the stage of playing against each other, first of all, I'll be happy to be in that stage, in the quarter-final stage, facing against her on one of the courts.
"We've played each other many times.
"I haven't had the best results against her.
"I always look forward to that opportunity and the challenge to play against the best, try something a little bit different to try to get a win out there."
Fresh from winning the French Open, where Williams suffered a second-round loss, Sharapova may feel the time is right to halt Serena's imperious run in their duels.
Yet Williams says she has plenty left in the locker for the later rounds.
"I don't want to feel great necessarily right now because hopefully I have several more matches I can play," Williams said.
"But the goal for me is just to feel a little better every day."
The 32-year-old may need to find a higher gear in the third round, with her next opponent having already registered a victory over Williams this year.
France's Alize Cornet beat Williams in the Dubai semi-finals in February, and set up another shot at the 17-time grand slam winner by fending off Czech Petra Cetkovska 6-4 5-7 6-3.
Off the court, the Serena charm has been strangely largely absent.
Happy to discuss World Cup football all day long, but apparently reluctant to indulge in too much tennis talk, she has looked to finish off her post-match chats as swiftly as she swats away her opponents.
"I'm supporting the US men all the way. I'm really excited," she said, before dashing off to watch TV coverage of Jurgen Klinsmann's United States playing Germany in their final World Cup group game.
Williams is unmistakably one of the great characters in tennis, but she clammed up in the interview room, shrugging off a question about her friend Caroline Wozniacki, and saying: "I'm really losing focus up here. I'm trying to figure out when this is going to end. What's the next question?"
Meanwhile, Canadian 13th seed Eugenie Bouchard has reached the semi-finals of both the Australian Open and French Open already this year, and is aiming to take that next step forward in her career by getting to a major final.
The 20-year-old proved too strong for Spaniard Silvia Soler Espinosa, posting a 7-5 6-1 win.
"I do like grass a little bit more I think. When I'm not slipping and falling, I enjoy it," Bouchard said.
"I think it suits my game and it rewards a player who takes it early and tries to move forward.
"Every time I go to the net, I have a pretty good ratio of success.
"I'm trying to do that more and more.
"I think that will, you know, help me perform well on grass over the years."
Andrea Petkovic, the 20th seed from Germany, stands in Bouchard's way of making further progress after a 6-4 3-6 6-1 victory against Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu.
Other seeded winners yesterday included Ana Ivanovic, last year's runner-up Sabine Lisicki and Kirsten Flipkens, but there was a casualty too as 15th seed Carla Suarez Navarro bowed out, the Spaniard beaten 7-6 (14/12) 5-7 6-2 by Kazakh player Zarina Diyas.
Angelique Kerber ended British hopes in the women's singles by resisting Heather Watson on Centre Court, posting a 6-2 5-7 6-1 win, and former finalist Vera Zvonareva followed up her toughed-out triumph over Tara Moore by knocking out Croatian Donna Vekic, who turns 18 on Saturday, in straight sets.
Belfast Telegraph Digital