Maria Sharapova could face Serena Williams in this year's Wimbledon quarter-finals, and would need to overturn a lengthy losing streak in order to beat the American.
Since the Wimbledon draw was released there was hype about a potential rematch between Serena and Sharapova, and now that we're almost a week into the tournament the contest is looking all the more likely to take place. Williams booked her place in round three with a convincing 6-1, 6-1 rout of Chanelle Scheepers on Thursday, and Sharapova joined her later in the day with an equally confident 6-2, 6-1 dismissal of Timea Bacsinszky.
Such a rematch would be one for the history books as Sharapova won her first, and to date last Wimbledon title a decade ago in 2004. She was a teenager back then and had been expected to become the latest gallant runner-up when she met Serena in the final. However, she stunned the tennis world with a dominant 6-1, 6-4 win. She then beat Williams again in the final of the WTA Tour Championships to take a 2-1 head-to-head lead. Many believed that this would kickstart one of the greatest rivalries that the WTA would ever witness.
This anticipated rivalry never really developed though, and at this particular phase of the 2014 grass slam Serena's record against Sharapova stands at 16-2. 15 successive victories for the all-time great have put to bed any doubts about who deserves to be No. 1, and Sharapova simply hasn't been able to find a way past her nemesis.
Sharapova's outlook towards the rivalry remains, at least in public, incredibly level-headed. She told reporters on Thursday that she'd love the chance to take on Serena again, and simply hopes to be competing in the quarter-finals. Following her French Open charge, which brought her a second clay slam, few would bet heavily against Sharapova failing to make the last eight at the All-England Club next week.
Speaking of the possible clash, Sharapova remarked: "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 quarterfinal stage, facing against her on one of the courts."
"We 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."
It doesn't seem like Sharapova has undertaken any early scouting of her possible quarter-final foe just yet. "I haven't had a chance to watch too many of her matches," she added. "But it doesn't really matter. I mean, she's been here. She's done it many, many times."
Serena moves on to a third round meeting with Alize Cornet, who defeated her earlier in the year in Dubai. Sharapova, meanwhile, is to take on Serena's compatriot Alison Riske on Saturday. Sharapova is expecting a real test from the American underdog.
"I feel like her game matches up with grass extremely well," she said of Riske. "She stays down really low, hits really flat from both sides, has had steady results on the surface. It's going to be a challenge. I look forward to playing her."