Clash of the Titans: Maria vs. Serena
By: John Berkok (http://www.familycirclecup.com/)
Just two of the 56 players in the main draw of the 2008 Family Circle Cup had made it all the way to the world No.1 ranking, the pinnacle of women's tennis. In Charleston on Friday the two former No.1s will meet as Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams do battle in the quarterfinals of the Tier I clay court event.
Sharapova and Williams split their first four match-ups evenly, 2-2. Williams won their first meeting, on the hardcourts of Miami in 2004, 6-4, 6-3; Sharapova retaliated with two wins later that year, notching high-profile final wins at Wimbledon (6-1, 6-4) and the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships (46 62 64, having trailed 4-0 in the third set). Williams won a nail-biter at the Australian Open at the beginning of 2005, saving three match points en route to prevailing, 2-6, 7-5, 8-6, to even their head-to-head. But that's when the American completely took over.
In their only two meetings since then Williams has completely dominated, with a 6-1, 6-2 win in the 2007 Australian Open final and an even more lopsided 61 61 win in the fourth round of Miami a few months later. With those two wins, the 26-year-old became the only player ever to beat Sharapova twice with the loss of only three games or less (those who have achieved the feat once are Monica Seles, Kim Clijsters, Anastasia Myskina, Lindsay Davenport and Ana Ivanovic).
Although the two players have played each other six times already there is an unknown remaining, as this will be the first time they will do battle on clay. Williams has a better clay court resume, claiming two titles on the surface - at Rome and Roland Garros in 2002 - but Sharapova is coming on strong on clay this year, claiming her first title on the surface at Amelia Island last week. With their big serves, huge groundstrokes and steely nerves, this is going to be a match to remember on the green clay of Charleston.