Maria Sharapova Forehand
Maria Sharapova hits a forehand in the Rogers Cup tennis tournament.Reuters

Nine-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams and former world number one Maria Sharapova will start their Cincinnati Masters campaigns against Lucie Safarova and Madison Keys respectively in Mason today.

Venus seems to have found her groove back, after some disappointing outings in the past. The American managed to reach the final of the Toronto Masters, and despite putting an impressive show against Agnieszka Radwanska, she failed to clinch the title.

Czech Republic's Safarova is seeded 16th in the event but beating the two-time champion will not be easy. She has never beaten Venus in their four meetings on the professional tour and the American ace thrashed her in straight sets in their last encounter in the 2010 Australian Open.

Venus hit 25 winners against Radwanska in her last match, but played pretty erratically while missing crucial points. Inconsistency has been Venus' problem in past few years and if Safarova can to play a clean game against the 34-year-old, she can claim her first victory over the American veteran.

Former champion Sharapova will start her Cincinnati journey against American Madison Keys in the second round. The Russian has shown decent form in patches, as she has won Madrid Open, Stuttgart Open and her second French Open title this season.

Although, her transition from grass court to hard court was not the smoothest, as she was shocked by Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro in Toronto Masters' third round. The five-time major winner was not in rhythm and was clearly affected by rain delays.

"I feel much more refreshed then I did sitting in this chair a year ago," Sharapova said. "I feel much more mentally excited to be playing healthy rather than going on a court worrying if I'd be worse.

"I'm very happy to be here. It's been an interesting last 12 months. Obviously it wasn't great having to miss so many tournaments at the end of last year, but turning that around and winning a Grand Slam this year."

This is the first meeting between Sharapova and Keys, who is the highest-ranked teenager in the WTA circuit. Keys made a fine start in the tournament beating Frenchwoman Alize Cornet in straight sets in the first round.

World number 28 Keys insisted that there is no pressure on her and she is looking forward for her first meeting with the former champion.

"Obviously she's an amazing player and I have never played her before," Keys said. "I'm excited. There shouldn't be any pressure on me. I just have to try to play my best, and hopefully I'll be really happy when I walk off the court."

Schedule of Play

Lucie Safarova vs Venus Williams starts 8:30 pm IST

Victoria Azarenka vs B. Zahlavova Strycova starts 10:30 pm IST

Maria Sharapova vs Madison Keys starts 12:30 am IST

Where to Watch Live

The day's action is scheduled for an 8:00 pm IST (10:30 am ET, 3:30 pm BST and 2:30 pm GMT) start with live coverage on Ten Sports in India. Cincinnati Masters will also be streamed live HERE and HERE or catch the live updates HERE. ESPN 2 will telecast the matches live in the United States with an online streaming option HERE. In South Africa and sub-Sahara region the tournament will be available live on Super Sport with live online viewing option HERE.

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