Serena Williams set up a marquee quarter-final clash with Maria Sharapova on Thursday at the WTA Stanford hard-court tournament.
The 13-time Grand Slam champion, battling to regain her elite ranking status after a lengthy layoff for injury and illness, defeated Russia’s Maria Kirilenko 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.
“I’m sure we’ll both go out and do the best each of us can,” Williams said of her looming clash with Sharapova, another former world No. 1. “It’s nothing personal. It’s my job and I want to get paid. I leave it on the court.”
After winning Wimbledon last year, Williams cut her foot and required surgery. She then dealt with blood clots in her lungs and ultimately was on the sidelines until her return in Eastbourne last month.
Stanford is her third tournament since last year’s Wimbledon and her first on US soil since the 2009 US Open.
Williams took a medical timeout in her match to have her left ankle re-taped because of a blister, but after Kirilenko won the second set and took the first game of the third, Williams seemed to wake up.
“I was a little sluggish out there,” Williams said. “I got upset and started playing well enough to win. I started out fine, but after that injury timeout I was sluggish.”
Williams said she is trying to be patient in setting the goals for her comeback, but she acknowledged she wants to win.
“If I say I just want to play well, it’s a lie,” she said. “Would I be happy about losing? When I’m playing I get a little psycho and on the edge.”
Sharapova, the second seed, advanced on Wednesday with a win over Daniela Hantuchova.
Top-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who defeated Sharapova in the final last year, crashed out to New Zealand qualifier Marina Erakovic 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.
Erakovic, ranked 121st in the world, stunned Azarenka and notched her first victory over a top 20 opponent to reach her second quarter-final of a season in which she has won 24 of her last 28 matches.
Belarus’ Azarenka, ranked fourth in the world, arrived in Stanford for the hard-court US Open tuneup off a semi-final appearance at Wimbledon.
She may have been a little rusty after the first-round bye given to the top four seeds.
Erakovic, 23, next faces eighth-seeded Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova.
“Coming in, I knew I had to be the aggressor and try to dictate the pace,” Erakovic said. “I knew the court and I felt like I was hitting the ball well.”
Germany’s Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki ousted fourth-seeded Samantha Stosur of Australia 6-3, 7-5.
Stosur, who had reached the semi-finals the past two years, teamed with Lisicki to reach the women’s doubles final at Wimbledon.
Lisicki next faces fifth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, who advanced on Wednesday with a win over Taiwan’s Chang Kai-chen.
The remaining quarter-final will pit French third seed Marion Bartoli against Japan’s Ayumi Morita, a 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 winner over qualifier Urszula Radwanska.
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