Cincinnati Tuesday: Venus Rising
Published August 12, 2014 12:10
Tuesday, First & Second Round
 Lucie Safarova (CZE #17) vs. Venus Williams (USA #20)
Head-to-head: Williams leads 4-0
Venus Williams' exploits last week in Montréal have resulted in her returning to the Top 20 for the first time since last March. If the American is to follow this up with another deep run, she will have to be on her game from the off in Cincinnati.
A testing draw has placed her in the same quarter as Simona Halep, Maria Sharapova and Lucie Safarova, the last of whom she meets in the first round. Williams' performances north of the border should leave her fearing no one, particularly Safarova, against whom she is unbeaten in four meetings.
 Maria Sharapova (RUS #6) vs. Madison Keys (USA #28)
Head-to-head: first meeting
Maria Sharapova has not managed to build on the high of her French Open triumph, failing to follow it up with a meaningful runs at either Wimbledon or Montréal. The surprise loss to Carla Suárez Navarro at the second of these tournaments leaves her short on hardcourt matches going into the US Open and in need of a decent showing in Cincinnati - her last scheduled tune-up event.
Three previous appearances in Cincinnati have brought Sharapova one title, one runner-up finish and one second round exit. Her fourth visit begins with a challenging assignment against the gifted but unpredictable Madison Keys. Like Sharapova, Keys - who suffered a thigh injury at Wimbledon - has had a slow start to the summer hardcourt season, losing early in Washington and Montréal.
Stat to watch: Sharapova was within a point of having two Cincinnati titles, only for a thunderstorm and a Kim Clijsters comeback to deny her in the 2010 final.
Also on court...
Simona Halep belatedly begins her US Open preparations against Kirsten Flipkens in the final match on Center Court. Meanwhile, in the pick of outside court matches, Andrea Petkovic takes on Sloane Stephens.