Commentary

Will Ivanovic, Sharapova bounce back from Wimbledon?

Playing for the first time since early exits at Wimbledon, Ana Ivanovic and Maria Sharapova have something to prove this week in Montreal.

Updated: July 29, 2008, 12:00 PM ET
By Ravi Ubha | Special to ESPN.com

Tournament: Rogers Cup
Surface: Hard
Draw: 56
Prize Money: $1.34 million
Top seeds: Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova

While the first Masters Series event of the summer hard-court season came two weeks after Wimbledon, most of the top women received an extra week's rest ahead of the first Tier 1 tournament, this week's Rogers Cup in Montreal.

World No. 1 Ana Ivanovic mixed business with pleasure in visiting the idyllic Spanish island of Mallorca, and Maria Sharapova took an extended road trip around France and England.

Both have something to prove.

Ivanovic, following her maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open, exited to spirited Chinese Zheng Jie in the third round at Wimbledon. An even bigger surprise came when Sharapova was sent packing by comedic countrywoman Alla Kudryavtseva a round earlier.

[+] EnlargeAna Ivanovic
Jacques Demarthon/AFP/Getty ImagesThe top-ranked Ana Ivanovic has plenty to prove after her early ouster at Wimbledon.

The Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, are both sidelined with knee injuries, although Serena wasn't entered.

First Quarter: Ana's entry
Frequent travel is a part of life on the pro tour, yet the air miles will be piling up over the next month in particular.

Most have to saunter from North America to Asia for the Olympics, and then back to North America for the U.S. Open.

In Ivanovic's case, she'll return to Asia in the fall and then finish the season on the European indoor circuit -- before presumably competing at the year-end championships in Qatar.

"During this time it's going to be important to find the right balance between practice, rest and recovery," Ivanovic said.

Ivanovic begins with either Aiko Nakamura or 18-year-old Czech Petra Kvitova, who has risen about 80 places to inside the top 75 since the start of the campaign.

Ivanovic's first scheduled seed is slumping No. 14 Francesca Schiavone, in the third round. Schiavone battles Austrian teen Tamira Paszek in the first -- the Italian defeated Paszek 6-3, 5-7, 10-8 in the first round at Wimbledon last month. Victoria Azarenka, a quarterfinalist in Los Angeles last week, could give Ivanovic a test if they meet in the quarters.

Prediction: Ivanovic

Second Quarter: Surging Safina
Safina is proving her final appearance at the French Open was no fluke.

She subsequently reached the finale of a Wimbledon tune-up, probably would have beaten Israeli Shahar Peer in the third round at the All England Club if she hadn't suffered from leg cramps that had her in tears, and won the East West Bank Classic in Los Angeles on Sunday. That's three different surfaces.

The Russian, seeded seventh, is projected to meet unpredictable lefty Patty Schnyder in the third round.

Safina's compatriot, the sliding Svetlana Kuznetsova, is the highest seed in the section at No. 4.

Want an interesting first-round matchup? How about Italian Flavia Pennetta versus Ashley Harkleroad?

Harkleroad's fan base probably rose following her Playboy shoot; Pennetta has more game, reaching the Los Angeles final.

Prediction: Safina

[+] EnlargeMaria Sharapova
Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesMaria Sharapova has been experimenting with new rackets since Wimbledon.
Third Quarter: Maria's for the taking
Besides touring France and England, visiting the spiritual city of Lourdes and taking in a wine festival in Bordeaux along the way, Sharapova fine-tuned her game post-Wimbledon, experimenting with a new frame to ease some pressure on her serving arm.

"I've been trying different rackets with different weight balances that are a bit more flexible and the strings looser to get as much tension away from my arm as possible," Sharapova said. "I'm usually very sensitive to any minor changes and we usually do this in the offseason, but we really had no choice this time."

Sharapova has a potentially tricky first opponent in American Bethanie Mattek, who has been on a roll since late April.

The three other seeds in the quarter -- Anna Chakvetadze, Marion Bartoli and Nicole Vaidisova -- are all having seasons to forget.

Prediction: Sharapova

Fourth Quarter: Elena and Jelena
There hasn't been this much excitement in Canadian women's tennis since "Hurricane" Helen Kelesi roamed the circuit.

Aleksandra Wozniak became the first female Canuck to claim a top-tier title in 20 years when she ousted an injured Bartoli in Stanford, Calif., two weeks ago. (The gods were on her side: Wozniak downed an ailing Serena Williams in the semis.)

If she can navigate past the first round, Wozniak has the chance to pull off another upset, against Jelena Jankovic.

Jankovic missed out on usurping Ivanovic as the world No. 1 when Safina conquered her in the Los Angeles semis, which might have been just as well since the Serb can hardly lay claim to the spot, never appearing in a Grand Slam final. Jankovic confessed the knee she injured at Wimbledon still isn't 100 percent.

Elena Dementieva, seeded fifth and rising, has a possibly interesting second-round match against feisty Slovak Dominika Cibulkova.

Prediction: Dementieva

Semifinals


When they squared off in the French Open final, Ivanovic played the big points better than Safina, who might have been mentally drained given the circumstances of her victories over Sharapova and Dementieva -- saving match points. Still, Ivanovic has the edge on this surface and triumphed in their past three meetings.

Sharapova has also won three in a row against Dementieva, without dropping a set. However, tinkering with her rackets might catch up with her at this stage.

Prediction: Ivanovic, Dementieva to advance

Final
The serve has improved. If only Dementieva could avoid those troughs. Had she not collapsed against Safina in the French Open quarters, who knows? She might have lifted her first Grand Slam trophy.

She's a perfect 4-0 against Ivanovic.

Prediction: Dementieva

Ravi Ubha is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.

London-based Ravi Ubha covers soccer and tennis for ESPN.com.