[image-1]We can’t make this stuff up

By Josh Eboch

On Monday, Maria Sharapova told me that her game gets stronger and her confidence grows as tournaments progress. If that holds true this week, the rest of the field at the Family Circle Cup is in big trouble. Sharapova decimated second round opponent Bethanie Mattek, 6-0 6-0, en route to an easy victory in her first match of the tournament. Sharapova, coming off a win at the Bausch and Lomb Championship on Sunday, showed no signs of fatigue from a short rest as she improved her clay court record to 5-0 for the season. Not even 60 points were played overall, and if not for double faults and a few unforced errors by Sharapova, there would have been less. Her dominance bodes well for a potential quarterfinals face-off between Sharapova and world-number-eight Serena Williams; a prospect Cup organizers are surely salivating over.

But for them to meet on the Stadium Court Friday evening, each woman must win her next match. Williams, who is coming off of a recent victory in Miami, took her own second round match against Gisela Dulko in straight sets. She has her hands full early this afternoon with 12 seed Katarina Srebotnik, who has twice reached the quarterfinals of the Family Circle Cup.

Sharapova’s easy victory, and her ability to play with minimal rest, may prove significant because she also plays today, less than 24 hours after besting Mattek. Her opponent, Tatiana Perebiynis, already surprised some fans by ousting Anabel Medina Garrigues, saving Sharapova a potential repeat of the grueling three-hour, 27 minute slugfest between her and Garrigues in the third round at Amelia Island last week.

[image-2]Williams has fallen behind 3-5 to Srebotnik in her first set, and I’ll be keeping a close eye on her match as well as Sharapova’s. If both of them prevail today, you can bet I’ll be part of a huge crowd tomorrow night; watching eagerly as a reigning member of women’s tennis royalty takes on what is fast becoming the face of its future.