Sharapova-Venus showdown may have to wait

Maria Sharapova quickly dispatched of Ai Sugiyama before the rains came. Venus Williams wasn't as fortunate on Saturday at Wimbledon.

Updated: June 30, 2007, 3:46 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

VENUS LIKELY FACING THIRD SET MONDAY


WIMBLEDON, England -- The rain had been coming down for a few games, and Maria Sharapova thought she hit the shot that ended her match with Ai Sugiyama.

Maria Sharapova

Sharapova

"The match should have been over," Sharapova said later. "It's just a weird situation because you know the rain is coming. It's the third call that the guy got wrong. You look at him and he's wearing sunglasses. He loses all credibility at this point.

"You're thinking you might be a match point up and you have to go and wait to finish the match. It's a little bit of a tense moment."

The moment passed, and the No. 2 seed escaped with the 6-3, 6-3 victory over Sugiyama before the rain descended in earnest. Venus Williams wasn't so fortunate.

PHOTO OF THE DAY

Julian Finney/Getty Images

Five of the six days at The Championships have seen rain delays, with Saturday's interruption being the worst. Only two singles matches were completed before play was stopped for the day.

STAT OF THE DAY

8 -- Number of separate rain delays the first week at the All England Club. Despite Saturday's abbreviated schedule, players will take the traditional day off on Sunday. 2004 was the last year there was play on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon.

DAY 6 HIGHLIGHTS

"You can never underestimate her as an opponent," Sharapova said. "You know that when you go out against her, you always have to be at your best."

The 20-year-old Russian knows this from cruel experience. Two years ago, as Wimbledon's defending champion, she got rolled by Williams in the semifinal. She forced a first set tiebreaker, but won only two points in the extra session. Then Williams won six of seven games in the second set.

"I felt like at that stage in my career I wasn't really ready," Sharapova said. "She played really good tennis. I didn't think I was capable of playing the same tennis for two or three sets. My level really dropped.

"I've always known there was room for improvement, physically, for me. But also the intensity level of putting two games together, breaking her, but keeping that intensity after you break your opponent, being smart about things. Sometimes, I felt like I was going for a little too much when I didn't have to."

Sharapova, however, has won the other three matches between the two. Most recently, she won 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 in the third round at Miami.

The asterisk hanging over Sharapova is her still-tender right shoulder. After tweaking it in Miami, she spends two and one-half hours a day -- ice, massage, strength-training and acupuncture -- rehabilitating it. The result? She has been consistently under-served.

On Saturday, Sharapova was pleased because she averaged 105 mph on her first serve, the highest since she's been hurt.

"Which is great," she said. "It's definitely something that will help me going on from here."

Indeed. Odds are, Williams will eventually win and bring about a match featuring two former Wimbledon champions that have won four of the last seven titles.

Williams won the first set against Akiko Morigami, 6-2, but trails in the second,1-4, with Morigami serving. She will have nearly two days to ponder her tenuous position, since the middle Sunday at Wimbledon is traditionally a day of rest. Meanwhile, Sharapova is free to focus on what could be a titanic fourth-round match with Williams.

"It's going to be a tough one," Sharapova said. "I mean, her match is not over, so we'll see."

AGE NOT CATCHING UP WITH AMELIE


WIMBLEDON, England -- Amelie Mauresmo turns 28 next week, and her years of experience can give her an edge over many of the other top players on the women's tennis tour.

It doesn't help the defending Wimbledon champion much before she steps on the court, though.

Amelie Mauresmo

Mauresmo

"I sometimes probably feel old in the locker rooms because they talk [about] probably very teenage things," Mauresmo said after beating Mara Santangelo 6-1, 6-2 Saturday in the third round.

"But physically I feel pretty good right now," Mauresmo added. "You shouldn't be, I don't know, regretting when you were 20 or whatever."

Five of the of the 13 other players left in her half of the draw are teenagers, including Ana Ivanovic, Nicole Vaidisova and Victoria Azarenka. Mauresmo has been impressed with what they've been able to accomplish.

"They're very mature already," said Mauresmo, who won her first two Grand Slam titles last year. "On the tennis court particularly, I think they're all doing great."

Especially the 19-year-old Ivanovic, who reached the final of the French Open before losing to top-ranked Justine Henin.

In the fourth round at Wimbledon, Mauresmo will face either the 18-year-old Vaidisova or the 17-year-old Azarenka. The teens started their match Saturday, but it was suspended because of rain with Vaidisova serving while leading 6-4, 3-2.

"I haven't seen her [Vaidisova] play for a while or played against her for a while," Mauresmo said. "But definitely on grass she should be very dangerous on the serve."