Rome Friday: Maria & Serena Share Stage
Published May 16, 2013 12:00
ROME, Italy - All four quarterfinals at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia will feature a player who has spent some time as World No.1, including a rematch of last year's French Open final between Maria Sharapova and Sara Errani.
 Maria Sharapova (RUS #2) vs.  Sara Errani (ITA #6)
Head-to-head: Sharapova leads 4-0
Though Maria Sharapova had her 21-match clay court win streak, the best among active players, snapped last week by Serena Williams in the Madrid final, she has gotten right back to her usual dominant form. She has lost just seven games in her two matches, including just three to World No.17 Sloane Stephens. Not only that, but the 2011 and 2012 Rome champion is now 20-2 all-time here.
Sharapova has won all four of her clashes with Sara Errani in straight sets, including their lone tilt on clay in last year's French Open final. However, their last match in the quarterfinals of Miami in March was the closest yet, with a 75 75 scoreline. And Errani is in fine form of late, with her 31 match wins in 2013 second-most behind Williams' 33. On top of that, she is projected to enter the Top 5 for the first time on next week's rankings.
 Serena Williams (USA #1) vs. Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP #22)
Head-to-head: Williams leads 1-0
Serena Williams is in the midst of a 21-match win streak, tied for the best stretch of her career. The other two times she reached 21 - in 2002 and 2003 - she was beaten, so there may be a bit of extra motivation for her to make short work of Carla Suárez Navarro. If her quarterfinal match is anything like her first two matches here, it will be brief - as she surrendered a combined five games in those to improve to 33-2 on the year and 30-1 on clay since the start of the 2012 clay court season. Williams hasn't won Rome since 2002, the same year she won her lone French Open, so a triumph here would be a good omen for her.
The top-ranked of eight Spaniards in the Top 100, Suárez Navarro had her toughest match this week in her opener - overcoming two match points before eventually outlasting World No.11 Nadia Petrova in a third set tie-break for her 11th Top 20 win. Her straight set loss to Williams at the 2010 Australian Open is her only previous match against a World No.1. If she is able to pull off the upset and advance to her first Premier-level semifinal, she would be the first Spaniard to beat a World No.1 since Virginia Ruano Pascual shocked Martina Hingis in the first round of Wimbledon in 2001.
Jelena Jankovic (SRB #18) vs. [Q] Simona Halep (ROU #64)
Head-to-head: Tied 1-1
Those in the stands for this one are in for a treat if Jelena Jankovic and Simona Halep's third meeting is anything like their first two. In their first clash in the first round of the 2010 US Open, Jankovic won a thriller, 7-5 in the third set, despite Halep having served for the match at 5-4. Though the stakes weren't as big at their next encounter in the first round of Brussels a year ago, the almost three-hour match was even more thrilling - with Halep surviving three match points to win in a third set tie-break.
No matter what happens from here on out, it has already been a memorable week for Halep in Rome, having won two qualifying matches before taking out former World No.2 Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round, World No.4 Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round for her first Top 5 win and World No.15 Roberta Vinci in the third round. Two-time Rome champion and former World No.1 Jankovic has not dropped a set all week, including most recently in a third round defeat of World No.5 Li Na for her 18th Top 5 win.