LONDON - Maria Sharapova has warned her Wimbledon title rivals she is peaking just in time to take advantage of Serena Williams' stunning exit.
Sharapova, who has yet to drop a set after routing Alison Riske 6-3 6-0 in the third round, heads into the second week as the newly-installed favourite following Alize Cornet's shock 1-6 6-3 6-4 victory over world No.1 Williams on Saturday.
Serena's defeat is a huge boost for French Open champion Sharapova, who had been scheduled to meet the American top seed in the quarter-finals.
That would have been a major obstacle to Sharapova's hopes of winning Wimbledon for the second time as she had lost her previous 15 meetings with Serena.
But with Williams vanquished by Cornet's brilliant display on Court One, fifth seed Sharapova now has a golden opportunity to lift the Venus Rosewater dish for the first time since 2004, when she famously shocked Serena in the final as a 17-year-old.
The Russian will face German ninth seed Angelique Kerber for a place in the quarter-finals and she struck an ominous note for her rivals by admitting she is hitting top form at just the right moment.
"I'm pleased that I've gone three good matches in. I feel like I improved with every match," Sharapova said.
"I started the first match a little nervous, which was expected. Once I got through that, I feel like I've elevated my game.
"I feel like I'm serving better. I didn't face a break point after the first game. Like I said, it's really the footwork, little things, imposing yourself out there."
It is the first time since 2006 that neither Serena nor sister Venus, beaten by Petra Kvitova will be in the Wimbledon fourth round.