Thursday August 14th, 2014

MASON, Ohio -- No. 2 Simona Halep and No. 6 Maria Sharapova will take their clay court rivalry to the hard court on Friday when the two face off in the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Open. Sharapova has been the roadblock to even greater success this year for Halep, who has yet to beat the Russian in four tries. Their quarterfinal will be a rematch of the the French Open final, which Sharapova won after three hours, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-4, to win her second French Open title. The two also contested the final of the Madrid Open, which Sharapova won 1-6, 6-2, 6-3. 

Currently No. 1 in the Road to Singapore rankings, Sharapova leads Halep by just 16 points, meaning the winner of this match will be in the No. 1 spot on Monday. Sharapova advanced to her seventh quarterfinal of the season by beating fellow Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 7-6 (2). After their two tough matches this season Sharapova knows all the tactical and matchup problems the Romanian brings to the table. Halep may give up eight inches to Sharapova but she knows how to work the court to get her running. The French Open final against Halep was the most physically grueling Slam final Sharapova had ever played. 

Highlights from that final below:

"Our last few matches this year have been on clay courts, so this will be a pretty new encounter," Sharapova said. "Again, we know each other's game very well because we played quite recently in the middle of the season. She's had one of her best seasons in her career. Obviously being No. 2 in the world is a really big achievement. It will be a tough match."

"I want to play against her because I want to see if on hard [court] she will beat me again," Halep said after her 6-4, 7-5 win over Lucie Safarova. She's counting on her experience of playing Sharapova recently to make the difference this time. "I just want to try my game, to play very aggressive, to open the angles like always, and to stay very focused, because she's taking a lot of time between points. So in French Open that disturbed me, but now I have experience and it will be fine."

Halep was referring to the amount of time Sharapova takes between her service points, which can edge on 20 to 30 seconds. Sharapova's habit, which remains unchanged regardless of her opponent, simply gave Halep too much time to think about the occasion. "Yeah, a little bit nervous between points because it was long time between the points. It's not easy to stay focused."

The other high-profile WTA quarterfinal will be between Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic. Williams advanced with a 6-2, 6-2 win over 13th seed Flavia Pennetta, while Jankovic improved her record against Sloane Stephens to 4-0 with a 7-6(4), 6-4 victory. 

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.