A blockbuster Australian Open quarterfinal will pit Serena Williams against Maria Sharapova on Tuesday. On the other side of the draw, Angelique Kerber will face Victoria Azarenka for the second time this month.
(1) Serena Williams vs. (5) Maria Sharapova
Williams and Sharapova will be facing each other for the 21st time in their careers when they battle for a place in the semifinals of the Australian Open on Tuesday. Although they have squared off so many times, don’t call it a rivalry. Williams leads the head-to-head series 18-2 and she is on a 17-match winning streak at Sharapova’s expense. The Russian has not defeated her heavily-favored opponent since 2004. Williams has also taken 14 sets in succession.
The world No. 1 struggled with a knee issue at the Hopman Cup earlier this month, but as usual she is in peak condition at a Grand Slam. After four rounds, Williams has not dropped a set and six sets in a row have been no closer than 6-2. Like the top seed, Sharapova also benefited from a favorable draw through three rounds. She did, however, surrender one set to Lauren Davis in the process. The competition got a lot tougher in the fourth round, but Sharapova fought past Belinda Bencic 7-5, 7-5. Nothing suggests this will be any different from almost all of their other encounters.
Pick: Williams in 2
(7) Angelique Kerber vs. (14) Victoria Azarenka
Don’t be fooled by the No. 14 next to Azarenka’s name. Her ranking has been deflated by injury in recent seasons and she is just now working her way back up to where she does not have to face top players in the first week of majors. Through four rounds, Azarenka is looking like she is no worse than the second title favorite behind Williams. The Belarusian is 9-0 this season with a title in Brisbane and four blowouts in Melbourne. No opponent this fortnight has made a set more competitive than 6-4 and the other seven have been 6-2 or worse.
Azarenka is 6-0 lifetime against Kerber after hammering her 6-3, 6-1 in the Brisbane final. The German is also 2-12 in total sets against her nemesis. She will get another shot on Wednesday following defeats of Masaki Doi, Alexandra Dulgheru, Madison Brengle, and Annika Beck. Kerber dropped one set to Doi and even faced match points, but she has been in cruise control ever since. This will be Azarenka’s toughest test so far, but it is still hard to see Kerber taking a set.
Pick: Azarenka in 2