The Top 2 players in the world are among those playing their third round matches at the Mutua Madrid Open.
WTA Staff

MADRID, Spain - World No.1 Serena Williams and World No.2 Maria Sharapova are both in action as they inch closer to a possible encounter in a dream final at the Mutua Madrid Open.

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Thursday, Third Round

Manolo Santana
[2] Maria Sharapova (RUS #11) vs. Sabine Lisicki (GER #39)
Sharapova leads 4-1
The stakes have always been great when Maria Sharapova and Sabine Lisicki have faced off, including three times at Grand Slams and once at the Olympics. And while Sharapova has a significant edge in their series, in their three most recent clashes, Lisicki won one and the other two went three sets.

This will be the duo's first meeting on clay, where Sharapova has become downright dominant recently. She is in the midst of an 18-match winning streak on the dirt, the second-best streak among active players on the surface - just one win behind Venus Williams' streak in 2004. That streak includes titles at Rome and the French Open last year and Stuttgart last month.

As for Lisicki, she is in the midst of an impressive 2013, having reached two finals. On top of that, her second round triumph here over World No.15 Dominika Cibulkova was her best win since her defeat of, coincidentally enough, then-World No.1 Sharapova in the fourth round of Wimbledon last year.

[1] Serena Williams (USA #1) vs. [13] Maria Kirilenko (RUS #12)
Head-to-head: Williams leads 6-0
Serena Williams has her own run of success on clay going, with her title in Charleston last month being her third title on the dirt in a year. She is also off to a terrific 27-2 start to the season. On top of that, she has dominated her series with Maria Kirilenko - dropping just two out of 14 sets and only surrendering two games in their last meeting in the fourth round of January's Australian Open. Another win would further help Williams' cause in staving off Maria Sharapova's quest to wrest the World No.1 ranking from her, as the Russian is nipping at her heels.

Kirilenko's impressive season has already included a title in Pattaya City and two semifinal showings. She is 1-3 in her career against World No.1s, with the one victory coming by virtue of Sharapova's second set retirement in the Beijing semifinals in 2005.

[7] Sara Errani (ITA #7) vs. Varvara Lepchenko (USA #27)
Lepchenko leads 2-1
It may surprise some that Varvara Lepchenko actually leads her series with Sara Errani, with the most recent of her two wins coming on clay during a remarkable Fed Cup weekend for Lepchenko in February in which she also beat Errani's doubles partner, Roberta Vinci. The win over Errani was Lepchenko's first Top 10 win. She should be confident in securing her second, as in addition to her previous success against Errani, she is no stranger to success in Madrid. Last year, she defeated clay court specialists Francesca Schiavone and Anabel Medina Garrigues en route to the quarterfinals. In her opener here this year, she got past Vinci again before a walkover win over Julia Goerges in the second round.

Five of Errani's six WTA clay court titles have come since the start of 2012. She shook off a loss to Bethanie Mattek-Sands in her opener at her last event in Stuttgart with a rout of Urszula Radwanska and a narrow win over Sorana Cirstea in her matches in Madrid so far. A title her would put her in a tie for third place for most clay court titles among active players.

Around the grounds?
Stadium 3 has a couple of noteworthy showdowns, with Marion Bartoli squaring off with Ekaterina Makarova and Daniela Hantuchova taking on Kaia Kanepi.