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London 2012: Day Eight Pick 'Em

Maria Sharapova prepares to return in her Olympic singles quarter-final
by Dan Imhoff
Saturday 4 August 2012

Our guide to what to look out for on Day 8 of the London 2012 Olympic tennis event...

Maria Sharapova (RUS) [3] v Serena Williams (USA) [4]: They may not be No.1 and No.2 on paper anymore but most punters would agree the draw has whittled down to the two pre-tournament favourites for Olympic gold. Both are former No.1s and with victory in the French Open final this year Sharapova joined Williams as the only active players to have won all four majors. Williams followed Sharapova’s breakthrough, swinging the limelight back in her direction by joining sister Venus on five Wimbledon titles and bringing her Slam tally to 14. To think the pair has little left to play for could not be further from the truth. Neither has won an Olympic singles medal. Gold will place them alongside the great Steffi Graf, her husband Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal as the only players to have achieved a career golden slam. Should Sharapova take the honours she would also return to the top spot but would have to overcome an 8-2 head-to-head ledger in Williams’s favour. The Russian last beat Williams back in the Tour Championships final in 2004, with the American winning all seven clashes since.
Pick: Some fierce hitting and some fierce noise will finish in Serena’s favour, in two.

Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan (USA) [1] v Michael Llodra/Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) [2]: These guys are No.1 and No.2 on paper for these Olympics but the Frenchmen will hope for a Federer-Wawrinka Swiss-style upset of epic proportions, fuelled by the passion of representing Les Bleus. The Bryan brothers still have not won an Olympic gold medal despite 11 Grand Slam doubles titles together and having been joint No.1s for a record 297 weeks. Plaster the letters U, S and A across their jackets and their record is equally impressive – 18 Davis Cup wins together for just two losses. However, one of those losses came to one half of the duo across the net from them today, when Michael Llodra teamed with Arnaud Clement to steal a win back in 2008. It’s a considerable addition to a respectable doubles resume for Llodra, currently ranked sixth in the dual form of the game and a three-time Grand Slam doubles winner. Ignore Tsonga’s doubles ranking of 123rd. He’s got talent to burn and having scraped through two marathons already this week, no one can accuse him of lacking heart in the big moments this week.
Pick: Bryan brothers to ride their serves to a long-awaited gold.

Others to watch:

Victoria Azarenka (BLR) [1] v Maria Kirilenko (RUS) [14]: Both were handily beaten in their respective semi-finals but Azarenka doesn’t lose back-to-back matches these days.

David Ferrer/Feliciano Lopez (ESP) v Julien Benneteau/Richard Gasquet (FRA): Deja vu for the Spaniards facing a makeshift French pair for the second day running.

Serena Williams/Venus Williams (USA) v Maria Kirilenko/Nadia Petrova (RUS) [3]: Serena and Maria will fight for singles medals before fighting for a place in the doubles final.

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