Sharapova and Azarenka Cruise

2010 Bank of the West Classic
By Hiland Doolittle, July 30th, 2010
Sharapova and Azarenka Cruise

Sharapova and Azarenka Cruise

Four of the tour’s most popular players were on display Thursday. Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko all advanced with relative ease while Ana Ivanovic showed signs of life but could not get past stubborn Marion Bartoli.

Thursday was a difficult day for America’s sweetheart Melanie Oudin. The 18-year old has been working on her game but so has wildcard 21-year old Victoria Azarenka, the 8th seed. The native of Belarus had her high-powered game in full swing and blasted past Oudin 6-3, 6-1. Azarenka won 9 of the last ten games in the match.

Azarenka has had a difficult time since early in the year but appears to have regained her focus as well as her all court press. The 8 seed served well but was most impressive attacking Oudin’s woeful serve.

4th seed, Marion Bartoli dismissed former world number one, Ana Ivanovic, 6-3, 6-4 in a competitive match. Ivanovic has been struggling with her ball toss for almost two years and Bartoli has been showing good form of late. France’s best female player is remarkably consistent and rarely loses a match she should win. Bartoli is quietly having her best year on tour. One big win would put her over the top.

Bartoli, the defending champion at the Bank of the West Classic, has now won seven straight matches here. Bartoli and Azarenka will meet in an interesting quarterfinal pairing.

Top seed Samantha Stosur and 7th seed Belgian power player Yanina Wickmayer earned their spots opposite each other on Wednesday. Stosur should have the edge but when Yanina is on her game, she can punish anyone. Stosur must hold her serve to win this one.

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Russian cover girl Maria Kirilenko brought her A game on Thursday and ousted popular 6th seed, Israeli Shahar Peer 6-4, 6-3. Kirilenko was impressive with a bigger than usual serve. Peer had control of the play but Kirilenko simply chased down every shot to notch the victory.

The Russian will next face Aggie Radwanska, a Wednesday winner.

Maria Sharapova has plenty of fans at Stanford. The big fan base helped propel the resurgent Maria past Bulgarian Olga Govortsova 6-3, 6-3. Sharapova has been struggling to recover from shoulder surgery. Sharapova reached the quarterfinals at Stanford last year before being defeated by Venus Williams.

Seeded fifth, Maria will have her hands full with the graceful Elena Dementieva, the tourney’s 2nd seed. Dementieva has been quietly working on her game and could use a big win to announce her return to the tour. Sharapova has elevated her play and could very well pull the upset here today.


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