The showdown is set.
Except that it's not a rivalry. Williams leads the head-to-head 7-2, and has won six straight against Sharapova. The Russian needs to start winning against Williams to make it a rivalry.
However, they are the two hottest players on tour right now. They have each won eight consecutive matches, all on clay. Neither has lost a match on clay this clay-court season.
Williams served beautifully during her win in Charleston last month. She has picked up this week where she left off in Charleston. She did drop a set to Caroline Wozniacki, but after a slow start, she picked up her game and won easily. It's the only set she has dropped in this tournament.
Sharapova looked great in Germany two weeks ago. She defeated Sam Stosur, Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka to win the title, losing only one set. She served great throughout the week. This week she hasn't served as well, but she's only been broken twice. However, her return serve is even better than the last tournament. Sharapova hasn't dropped a set, and hasn't really been pushed this week. She received a walkover when Lucie Safarova withdrew due to illness in the third round.
The two have combined for 65 titles and 16 grand slams in their careers, and they've played some entertaining matches against each other. Of course, some of them have been blowouts, including their meeting last summer in which Williams dominated. Both are strong mentally and physically and both rely heavily on their serves. If one of them isn't serving well, they are in big trouble. They both hit the ball big, and are solid from the baseline. Williams clearly moves better and is much more athletic than Sharapova.
Neither have been known for their clay-court prowess, but they are playing well right now. Sharapova has advanced to the quarterfinals in all six of her tournaments this year, including four finals. Sharapova's extra day off could help her, or it could hurt her.
It will be a tight three-setter, filled with lots of drama and incredible shot making. For a quarterfinal, this is about as good as it gets. It's really the final for all intents and purposes because the winner of this match should win the title. It will live up to the hype and be quite the showdown. In a long, grueling match, Sharapova's day off will help her. I picked her at the start of the tournament and I'm standing by my pick.
Prediction: Sharapova in three.