Serena, Venus still lacking confidence
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- After being out almost eight months with an injury, Serena Williams' first match was no test at all, but her second round with Elena Likhovtseva was a little shaky.
When it got close in the second and third sets, Serena showed a little bit of doubt and hestitation, which is to be expected after not playing for so long.
Like Serena, Venus has been injured. She played a couple of matches in Toyko then went to the Australian Open. Then she had another injury and has only played a few matches since, so she's not full of confidence either. Her two matches here, although won in straight sets, were not easy.
Serena Williams (1), United States, vs. Maria Sharapova (17), Russia
Expect Serena to raise the level of her game because she knows how dangerous 16-year-old Sharapova is. If Sharapova, who has lived in the States since she was 10 years old, plays like she did on Sunday, she can win this. She's feisty. She hits the ball hard and is very determined. But Serena will likely find a way to raise the level of her game.
Paola Suarez (9), Argentina, vs. Jill Craybas, United States
Suarez, the No. 1 player in the world in doubles, should get through this. However, A graduate of the University of Florida, Craybas beat seventh-seeded Vera Zvonareva in three sets, so Craybas is having a terrific tournament.
Eleni Daniilidou (25), Greece, vs. Tatiana Golovin, France
Originally from Russia but playing for France, Golovin had her big breakthrough at the Australian Open reaching the round of 16 before losing to Lisa Raymond. Golovin has continued to earn solid wins.
It's a good opportunity for Golovin to get through to the quarterfinals here, but talented Daniilidou held her nerve closing out her match against Jennifer Capriati on Sunday.
Svetlana Kuznetsova (10), Russia, vs. Karolina Sprem (29), Croatia
Kuznetsova is another of the many talented Russians. Known for being Martina Navratilova's doubles partner last year, Kuznetsova beat Venus this year in the Middle East. She's quite solid. She came back in the third round here after being down a set and a break to win 6-3 in the third set. Sprem is a Croatian, who prefers clay, so the edge goes to Kuznetsova.
Nadia Petrova (8), Russia, vs. Alicia Molik (24), Australia
Molik is one of the best servers in the game. She likes to come forward and has improved her game this year. She could give Petrova trouble.
Petrova is a solid baseliner. Expect the higher seed to prevail.
Nathalie Dechy (21), France, vs. Gisela Dulko, Argentina
Dulko defeated two seeded players and reached the quarterfinals at Indian Wells just before this tournament. Dulko is only 19. She lost in the qualifying but became a "lucky loser" when Anastasia Myskina withdrew allowing Dulko to enter the main draw. Dechy has been around the game longer, so, based on experience, she should win.
Elena Dementieva (5), Russia, vs. Jelena Dokic (12), Yugoslavia
Dementieva, a former U.S. Open semifinalist, is back in the top 10. Dementieva has been playing great tennis, while you never know what you're going to get with Dokic. She is very streaky. Although Dokic reached the semis of Wimbledon in 2000, she's struggled since with injuries and personal issues. She's starting to win a few matches again but is still inconsistent.
Francesca Schiavone (15), Italy, vs. Venus Williams (2), United States
Venus can be very erratic. The toughest thing she's faced in her comeback is maintaining consistency.
This is a match where she'll get to hit a lot of balls, which is good because she'll get some groove and some timing. But she needs to be more consistent to keep Schiavone from keeping her out there a long time. But Venus should get through here.