Australian Open R4: (12) Belinda Bencic vs (5) Maria Sharapova
Sunday’s highest profile fourth round clash at Melbourne park sees Belinda Bencic and Maria Sharapova go head-to-head for the first time, a much anticipated match-up among followers of the WTA. Both Sharapova and Bencic have showed reasonable form this week and both managed to survive a slight scare in the third round, both will know that they will need to really step up their level heading into this tough fourth round clash.
Belinda Bencic’s form hasn’t been spectacular this week but she has been mature enough to get the job done and advance to the second week at the Australian Open for the first time in her young career. Bencic started the week with reasonably comfortable straight set victories over Alison Riske and Timea Babos before coming from a set down to defeat Kateryna Bondarenko 4-6 6-2 6-4. Bencic will enter this match full of confidence, having already beaten the best players in the world, including Serena Williams (something Sharapova hasn’t done for over a decade).
Maria Sharapova also cruised through her first two matches in Melbourne before being pushed to three sets in her third round match. Maria started the week with commanding straight set victories over Nao Hibino and Aliaksandra Sasnovich before surprisingly being pushed to three sets by Lauren Davis where she ultimately prevailed 6-1 6-7 6-0. Although Maria ended win the deciding set very comfortably, the fact that she was beaten by Davis in a tiebreaker is a little bit concerning moving forward. Maria will need to play much better tennis on Sunday if she wants to advance any further in Melbourne.
It is surprising that it has taken so long for these two to go head-to-head, it will be interesting to see how these two match up against each other. Obviously Maria has more firepower and a stronger serve, however Bencic is more consistent from the baseline and has a much more consistent serve. The contrast in styles should make for a fascinating encounter.
I believe Bencic will have the edge on this occasion. Bencic loves a big stage and I’m certain she will be really looking forward to playing Sharapova. I’m still not certain where Sharapova’s level is at right now and I really question her ability to hit through Bencic in a long tough match, Bencic has a wonderful record in three set matches and I think that will continue here.