(5) Maria Sharapova vs Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Maria Sharapova faces compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Cincinnati on Thursday for a place in the quarter-finals at the Western & Southern Open. This looms as a potential danger match for the Russian fifth seed. Sharapova is looking a little vulnerable at the moment whilst Pavlyuchenkova looks like she is starting to hit some decent form.
After receiving a bye into the second round, Maria overcame a second set wobble to defeat Madison Keys 6-1 3-6 6-3. The match was an unforced error fest, both players combined for 29 winners to 79 unforced errors. After losing the second set, Maria took a lengthy trip to the locker room. The American crowd didn't appreciate this; Sharapova was booed on her return to Centre Court. After the match, Maria did not acknowledge the crowd and stormed off the court. There were also suggestions that Maria’s shoulder was troubling her during the match. If Maria doesn't raise her level on Thursday, an upset is a distinct possibility.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has had a really disappointing season, however the Russian seems to be turning things around in the lead to the U.S Open. Pavlyuchenkova emphatically defeated eleventh seed Dominika Cibulkova in the opening round 6-3 6-3 before breezing past qualifier Karin Knapp in the second round 6-1 6-3.
Pavlyuchenkova has troubled Sharapova in the past. Earlier this season at the Paris indoor event, Pavlyuchenkova came from a set down to defeat Maria on route to her only title of the season. However Maria does lead the head-to-head 2-1 and won their most recent encounter in straight sets in Stuttgart. I’m going for Maria in three but I wouldn't be surprised to see an upset.
Prediction: Maria Sharapova to defeat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in three sets