LONDON, England - Angelique Kerber and Venus Williams cruised through their second round matches at the Olympic Tennis Event in straight sets on Tuesday afternoon, setting up an absolute blockbuster third round clash.
The No.7-seeded Kerber put together some phenomenal numbers to win her match, hitting 17 winners to just three unforced errors in beating Timea Babos, 61 61. It was the German's WTA-leading 47th match win of a breakthrough year.
Williams, unseeded this week, didn't need too much longer to advance, beating Aleksandra Wozniak in 63 minutes, 61 63. The American had more unforced errors on her plate with 14 but more than made up for it with 32 winners.
"Me and Wozniak had a tough match earlier this year, and she had match points there, so of course I respect her game," Williams said. "But I think this surface and my experience helped me a lot. I've had so much success here."
Kerber and Williams are tied head-to-head, 1-1. Williams won on hard in 2009 and Kerber won on clay this year; this is their first meeting on grass.
Another blockbuster third round match-up that was set earlier in the day was No.3 seed Maria Sharapova against No.15 seed Sabine Lisicki, a chance at revenge for Sharapova, who lost to Lisicki at Wimbledon just a few weeks ago.
Lisicki was the first to advance, surviving a very tight encounter with a tough-as-nails Yaroslava Shvedova, 46 63 75. While both players had the same amount of unforced errors, 28-28, Lisicki far outdid Shvedova in the winners department, 47-17, a testament to Shvedova lifting her game on big points. The Kazakh even got to match point at 5-4 in the third, but missed a backhand.
"I was surprised we got to play the match - the rain stayed away, which was nice," Lisicki said. "It was a hard match. I mean, Shvedova plays great, and she played fabulously here. I knew it would be tough, and I'm just happy to win."
Sharapova also had to fend off a big challenge, winning a marathon 59-minute first set and hanging on in the second to beat Brit Laura Robson, 76(5) 63.
"I think she has a lot of potential, no doubt," Sharapova said of Robson. "I think consistency's the biggest key, obviously. When you come out on a big stage, the whole crowd behind you, playing someone against whom you have nothing to lose, you play your best tennis. But it's also a matter of going out and playing on Court 18 and performing at the same level week in, week out.
"She certainly improved from the last time I played her. You can see the little improvements she's made. I'm sure she has a bright future ahead of her."
Sharapova leads Lisicki in their head-to-head, 3-1, but Lisicki did win their last meeting, a few weeks ago here in the fourth round of Wimbledon. The German also has a winning 6-4 record against Top 10 players on grass.
Rounding out the round of 16 later in the day were No.1 seed Victoria Azarenka, who rolled over María José Martínez Sánchez, 61 62; No.14 seed Maria Kirilenko, who beat Heather Watson, 63 62; No.16 seed Nadia Petrova, who came back strong in the third set to beat Anna Tatishvili, 63 67(5) 62; and Julia Goerges, who defeated Varvara Lepchenko, 63 75.
"The last time we played I lost to her, so I got a little bit of revenge this time," said Goerges, who took out No.2 seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the first round. "I'm pretty happy. I was serving well, playing aggressively and just kept fighting. She was fighting too. I expected a tough match and I got it."
World No.1 Azarenka was celebrating her 23rd birthday, but was too focused on her tennis to celebrate. "It was a special moment to have a birthday during the Olympic Games but unfortunately I cannot celebrate as I have to get ready for tomorrow," she said. "Just wishing for a gold medal won't make it happen."