Semi-Final #2 (5) Maria Sharapova vs (9) Ana Ivanovic
The second semi-final on Saturday will see two of the WTA’s poster girls, Ana Ivanovic and Maria Sharapova square off for a place in Sunday’s final at the Western & Southern Open. The two had massively contrasting pathways to the semi-finals. Maria came from a set and a break down to battle her way past a determined Simona Halep. In complete contrast Ana cruised past Elina Svitolina in straight sets.
Maria hasn't been at her best this week in Cincinnati but she keeps on finding a way to win. Her toughest match of the week came in the quarter-finals where she edged past Simona Halep in the match of the tournament thus far. Maria struggled in the opening set, frustrated by Simona’s stunning defence. The Russian hit 6 winners to 22 unforced errors as Simona ran away with the set 6-3. The second set started in a similar way, Simona quickly found herself up a break and in complete control. Up until this point Maria had failed to conjure up a service hold. As so often is the case Maria Sharapova found another gear, her first service hold of the match seemed to spring her into action. Despite hitting 11 double faults to just 1 ace and hitting 53 unforced errors to 27 winners, Maria staged an incredible comeback to win the match 3-6 6-4 6-4 in just over two and a half hours.
Ana Ivanovic clinically took care of business on Friday, cruising past Elina Svitolina 6-2 6-3 in just under 1 hour. Ivanovic was tested in the opening set but was able to navigate her way through some tricky service games. In the second set Ana’s serve improved dramatically, the Serb lost just one point on her serve during the second set. A very clean performance by the former world number 1, hitting 25 winners to just 13 unforced errors to set up a semi-final showdown with Maria Sharapova.
Maria Sharapova has a dominant 8-3 head-to-head record over Ana Ivanovic. However it was the Serb who won their most recent encounter 6-1 6-4 in Rome earlier this year to break a string of 7 straight loses to the Russian (Maria was fatigued after playing a lot off matches leading into Rome). Incredibly the last 5 times these two have met have all been on clay, their last meeting on a hard court was at Indian Wells in 2012. At her best Ana is certainly capable of challenging Maria, however it’s hard to pick against Maria who is the ultimate competitor. Maria will need to serve much better on Saturday if she is to progress to the final in Cincinnati. Maria is the stronger of the two when the pressure is on, as I suspect it will be when this match heads into a decider
Prediction: Maria Sharapova to defeat Ana Ivanovic in three sets