By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Maria Sharapova said she wanted to play Serena Williams at some point this summer. She just may get the chance sooner rather than later.
Sharapova did her part to set up a possible match between former world No. 1 players when she beat Daniela Hantuchova, 6-2, 2-6, 6-4, Wednesday in the Round of 16 in the $721,000 Bank of the West Classic at Stanford's Taube Family Tennis Center.
Williams needs to do her part in Thursday's late afternoon match against Maria Kirilenko to make for a dream match between the two comeback players.
Sharapova needed over two hours to take care of Hantuchova, who reached the fourth round of the French Open and the third round at Wimbledon earlier this season.
Sharapova thought she won the match with a second serve ace but the line judge disagreed, making it a double fault and deuce.
The 24-year-old collected her thoughts and served two consecutive points to win the match.
Sharapova has defeated Hantuchova, who has been ranked as high as No. 5, eight times in nine meetings. It was their first meeting in three years.
Hantuchova fell to 8-45 against the world's top five, although she owns three wins over the elite players this season.
Sharapova recorded seven aces, none in the third set. She was clearly laboring in the final set, committing six of her 11 double faults.
She rallied to win 84 percent of her first-serve points during the 51-minute set.
"Overall I had a good first set and then it kind of went away," Sharapova said. "The things I was doing well in the first set I wasn't doing. She had all the confidence in the world and all the momentum going into the third set."
Hantuchova, who hasn't defeated Sharapova in seven years, took advantage by winning the first two games of the third set.
"Leading 2-0 in the third set, that next game was crucial," Hantuchova said. "She went on that unbelievable run and that's where it changed a little bit."
Sharapova took the next four games to re-establish herself and carried that forward for the victory.
"Even though I wasn't playing my best tennis, I still felt like I had so many chances," Hantuchova said. "I think I had 12 break points on two of those. It was a good fight. Unfortunately, I had to face someone like that in the second round."
Whomever Sharapova plays next likely will prove a tough chore. She lost to both of them the last time she played Williams and Kirilenko, who is one of her best friends.
"You can never rest against Serena," Sharapova said. "She hasn't played in quite a while but she's still a great competitor. At the end of the day she has 13 Grand Slam titles and I have three. That says a lot. Maria can produce great tennis and beat the top players."
Sharapova improved to 9-0 in three-set matches this year.
"The things you guys notice," Sharapova said. "I wasn't aware of that. Winning is the most important thing so I guess that's good."
France's Marion Bartoli reached her seventh quarterfinal of the year, beating Rebecca Marino of Canada 6-4, 6-3 in an earlier match on Wednesday.
"This is a good start," Bartoli said. "I lost here in the first round in 2007 after a great Wimbledon. So I was trying to avoid that this year. I was happy with my preparation for this event."
The ninth-ranked Bartoli, who won at Stanford two years ago and reached the finals in 2008, has won 18 of her past 21 matches.
"I love this tournament; it's a great way for me to start back," Bartoli said. "I lost to Rebecca last year in Quebec, so it was good for me to take revenge. I really felt like I was moving well. I was hitting the ball well for having three weeks off."
Marino, ranked 40th, beat Bartoli at Quebec City last year; her only win over a top-20 player.
Also on Wednesday, eighth-seeded Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia beat American Christina McHale 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, and fifth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland topped Chinese Taipei's Kai-Chen Chang, 6-4, 3-6, 6-0.
"It was really difficult to play," Cibulkova said. "I didn't play my best and it's not always easy to win matches like this."
The 20th-ranked Cibulkova reached her seventh quarterfinal of the year and will meet the winner of Thursday's match between top-seeded and defending champion Victoria Azarenka and qualifier Marina Erakovic.
"Sometimes a match like this gives you more confidence because you have to fight and play through it when you are struggling. Now in the next match, you can play even better knowing you just won a real tough match."
McHale, the youngest player in the main draw, was disappointed in her result but was satisfied overall.
"I just played a lousy game when I was serving at 3-2 in the second set to let her back in," McHale said. "Then she started playing more confidently. I'm still disappointed that I lost but overall I feel like I played a good match. She's one of the top players so I think a match like this will help me in the long run."
Radwanska also said she wasn't at her best against Chang, who knocked Stanford grad Hilary Barte out of the tournament Monday night.
"I had never played her before and that wasn't my best tennis," Radwanska said. "She was playing well, hitting the ball hard and deep. I was in trouble a little bit and didn't take advantage of my chances in the second set. I was trying to come back in the second set, but she hit better shots. I was much more aggressive in the third set and felt much better. There were hot conditions today and the ball was flying pretty fast everywhere."
Radwanska plays the winner of Thursday's match between Sabine Lisicki and fourth-seeded Samantha Stosur.
The winner of the Classic earns $111,000, with the runner-up nabbing $60,700.
Bank of the West Classic
Schedule of play for Thursday
Urszula Radwanska vs. Ayumi Morita, 11 a.m.
Victoria Azarenka vs. Marina Erakovic
Maria Kirilenko vs. Serena Williams, not before 2 p.m.
Sabine Lisicki vs. Samantha Stosur, not before 7 p.m.
Rodionova-Rodionova vs. Azarenka-Kirilenko
Aoyama-Fujiwara vs. Cibulkova/Date-Krumm