Ana Ivanovic at Cincinnati Open

Ana Ivanovic at Cincinnati Open

Ana Ivanovic played her most important match this year and Maria Sharapova played as competitively and loudly as ever to join six other winners in the quarterfinals of the $2 million Western and Southern Financial Group Women’s Open. Just when you are ready to bid Ana farewell as a serious contender, she surprises you, just like she did on Thursday against Russian Elena the next round, Ana displayed good foot speed and a strong two handed backhand to gun down Elena 6-0, 6-3. Ivanovic will be tested on Friday as she faces big serving Akgul Amanmuradova, a 7-6 (3) 6-4 upset winner over top seed Jelena Jankovic.

Playing as if she belonged, Akgul’s powerful serve was too much for Jankovic who served bravely herself. The only break in the match came at 3-3 in the second set when Jankovic had a 40-15 lead and played two loose points to let Akgul back in the game.

10th seeded Maria Sharapova is well on the way through her two-year rebuilding period. The former number one impressively ousted last week’s winner in San Diego, Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, 6-2, 6-3. Sharapova served more efficiently than has been her norm in the 6’0” Russian’s fifth straight win over Agnes. In the end, it boiled down to power and Radwanska did not have the game to counterattack Maria on Thursday. When Sharapova plays this way, she is a threat to anyone. More and more, the blonde beauty is looking like a top five player.

Sharapova will play 16 seed Marion Bartoli, who cruised past number two seed Caroline Wozniacki. At 3-4 in the first set, the Frenchwoman rolled off nine of the next ten games to close out the Dane 6-4, 6-1. It was the second straight win for Bartoli over Caroline who could not keep pace with the underdog’s two handed smashes.

Belgians Kim Clijsters and 12th seed Yanina Wickmayer scored wins to advance. Clijsters blew away American Christina McHale 6-1, 6-1 while Wickmayer upset 8 seed Li Na 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) in the match of the day. In the final set, Wickmayer and Li played outstanding tennis, but down the stretch, Wickmayer had too much power for the fleet Chinese.

11th seed French Open Champion, Falvia Pennetta, continued her winning ways with a 6-4, 6-3 upset over sixth seeded Vera Zvonareva. Pennetta committed just 10 unforced errors as she toppled the Wimbledon runner-up. Flavia, considered a stronger player on clay, will be a long underdog against the unflappable Clijsters in the quarters.

Wickmayer will be tested by the newest Russian sensation Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who surprised tour stalwart and 13th seed Shahar Peer 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. These two young stars will likely be matching skills and wits for years to come. Against Peer, Anastasia took charge of the pace and tempo of the match. The teen star commits unforced errors but seems to pressure experienced stars into abnormally high errors of their own.

This tourney sets up as a good test of up-and-coming stars and players on the comeback trail. Clijsters looks like the favorite at this point.


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