Maria Sharapova vs. Ajla Tomljanovic, Abu Dhabi Preview

?? MWTC Abu Dhabi, preview + prediction
?? Maria Sharapova vs. ?? Ajla Tomljanovic

Maria Sharapova will take on Ajla Tomljanovic in the annual Mubadala World Tennis Championships in Abu Dhabi. The ATP event is the star attraction with a field of 6 players including the top 2 ranked players, meanwhile, Sharapova and Tomljanovic will represent the WTA in a standalone exhibition match on Thursday evening.

There are no ranking points on the line here but this is an important match for both Sharapova and Tomljanovic, for different reasons. Sharapova won just 8 tour level matches last year, just 2 during the second half of the year, therefore every victory is important for Sharapova to gain confidence. Tomljanovic had one of her best seasons in 2019 and is seemingly well placed to perform even better in 2020. The problem for Tomljanovic has been not performing well in the biggest events and against the best players. A win over Sharapova, albeit in an exhibition match would boost the confidence of Tomljanovic heading into the new year.

Tomljanovic is ‘looking forward to facing Sharapova for the first time, an opponent she has always wanted to play.’ Indeed this is a good opportunity for Tomljanovic to play against one of the games biggest names. Sharapova is certainly past her prime and this is just an exhibition match but a win over Sharapova could be vital for Tomljanovic, a player who has rarely managed to beat the biggest names in tennis.

I’ll side with Tomljanovic here. This is surprisingly the first even meeting between the pair at any level. It is Tomljanovic who is in the prime of her career at the moment and I expect her to climb even higher in 2020. Sharapova is merely a novelty at this stage of her career. Tomljanovic is in better shape and more match tough, even during the off season. Expect Tomljanovic to ultimately be too solid for the Russian.

Prediction: Ajla Tomljanovic to defeat Maria Sharapova in 3 sets

Serena Williams vs. Maria Sharapova, US Open R1 Preview

???? US OPEN, R1 match preview
?? (8) Serena Williams vs. ?? Maria Sharapova

The pick of the opening round match-ups at the 2019 US Open sees the two biggest names in women’s tennis renew hostilities as Serena Williams comes up against Maria Sharapova. This will be the 22nd career meeting between the pair, their first ever meeting at the US Open. Williams holds a 19-2 head-to-head record over Sharapova and has won the last 18 matches between the pair in what is arguably the most talked about match-up in women’s tennis over the last few decades. Will Williams continue her dominance over Sharapova in New York?

Serena Williams is still desperately searching for a 24th major title, her first since returning from giving birth. Williams has been close on several occasions over the last few years having reached the final in 3 of her last 5 Grand Slam appearances. Williams was infamously beaten by Naomi Osaka in last year’s controversial US Open final, can the 37-year-old go one step further in 2019? Recent form suggests Williams will yet again feature late in the tournament, Williams arrives in New York fresh from a runner-up showing at the Rogers Cup which was ultimately derailed by a back injury, Williams reached the Wimbledon final just a few months ago.

The last time Serena Williams played Maria Sharapova was at the quarter-final stage of the 2016 Australian Open, Maria Sharapova would fail a doping test shortly after that match. Sharapova has never threatened at a major Since her return from the subsequent doping ban. Sharapova is currently languishing just inside the top 100 of the rankings and has really struggled for the majority of the 2019 season with ongoing injury problems continuing to make life tough for the Russian. Most recently Sharapova broke a lengthy winless spell with a straight set win over Alison Riske in Cincinnati before receiving a reality check as she was smashed by Ash Barty in the next round. It will be fascinating to see how Sharapova regroups and performs against her greatest ever rival.

Williams has absolutely dominated Sharapova, everyone knows that. Williams has won an unprecedented 18 matches in a row against Sharapova, 12 of the last 13 of those matches were straight set victories.

There is little to suggest that Sharapova will be able to stop her losing streak against Williams in New York. Williams has generally been much closer to her best than Sharapova has been to her best. Serena’s serve is still strong, she still has the power and her movement is still good. Sharapova’s serve is a mess and she is certainly not as strong as she once was. Nevertheless, I feel like this will be closer than expected, Williams will be rusty, Williams will be nervous, Sharapova has nothing to lose and a point to prove. I can’t pick Sharapova but it’s not impossible.

Prediction: Serena Williams to defeat Maria Sharapova in 3 sets

Caroline Garcia vs. Maria Sharapova, Montreal R3 Preview

Rogers Cup, Montreal. R3 Preview
?? (6) Caroline Garcia vs. ?? Maria Sharapova

Caroline Garcia and Maria Sharapova will renew hostilities when they meet at the third round stage of the Rogers Cup in Montreal on Thursday. It is Sharapova who has generally had the better of this match-up having won the first 4 meetings between the two. However, it was Garcia who beat Sharapova in their most recent meeting earlier this year in Stuttgart. Can the 6th seed make it back-to-back wins over the Russian?

Caroline Garcia of France in action during her first-round match at the 2018 Coupe Rogers WTA Premier 5 tennis tournament

Caroline Garcia kick-started her Rogers Cup campaign with a hard-fought 4-6 6-1 6-3 win over Magdalena Rybarikova. Garcia was wayward throughout the first set but cut back her unforced error tally in the second and third sets as she took control of the match with her strong court positioning and powerful game. Garcia will face a far more dangerous opponent in the next round against an in-form Sharapova.

Maria Sharapova has been brutal on route to the third round in Montreal. Sharapova started the week with a 6-1 6-2 win over Sesil Karatantcheva before producing one of her better performances in recent times to thrash the 12th seeded Daria Kasatkina 6-0 6-2. Sharapova has not won 3 consecutive matches on a hard court since Shenzhen in the first week on the year, can she change that in Montreal?

Sharapova holds a 4-1 head-to-head record over Garcia, including two comfortable victories in their two previous meetings on a hard court. It was Garcia who won the their most recent match, a 3-6 7-6 6-4 win on clay in Stuttgart earlier this year. Expect another close match between two confident players when they meet in Montreal on Thursday.

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Garbine Muguruza vs. Maria Sharapova, Roland Garros QF Preview

?? Roland Garros, QF Preview
?? (3) Garbine Muguruza vs. ?? (28) Maria Sharapova

Garbine Muguruza will be searching for her first victory over Maria Sharapova when the pair meet in a blockbuster quarter-final clash at Roland Garros on Wednesday. Muguruza and Sharapova both enter this clash in ominous form, both are fresh after not having to complete a fourth round match. This is an exciting battle between two former champions in Paris, who will rise to the occasion and claim victory here?

Garbine Muguruza of Spain in action during her third-round match at the 2018 Roland Garros Grand Slam tennis tournament

Muguruza has waltzed into the quarter-finals in Paris without dropping a set. The Spaniard powered through the opening week with straight set wins over Svetlana Kuznetsova, Fiona Ferro and Samantha Stosur. Muguruza’s fourth round match lasted just 2 games before Lesia Tsurenko retired injured. Roland Garros is easily Muguruza’s most successful tournament, the 2016 champion is certainly now one of the main contenders in 2018.

Maria Sharapova is back into the quarter-finals in Paris for the first time since winning the tournament in 2014. Sharapova is a 2-time former champion in Paris, surprisingly Roland Garros is her most successful Grand Slam and suddenly she looms as a genuine contender to win a third title. Sharapova moved through the first week with a 3 set win over Richel Hogenkamp before improving her level to claim straight set wins over Donna Vekic and Karolina Pliskova. Sharapova was scheduled to meet Serena Williams in the fourth round but was handed a walkover into the next round.

Sharapova holds a perfect 3-0 record over Muguruza. The pair played in 2014 at the quarter-final stage at Roland Garros, an event where Muguruza made her big breakthrough, Sharapova came from a set down to claim a 3 set win on that occasion and did the same thing at the Rogers Cup later in the year in what was their most recent match.

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Maria Sharapova vs. Serena Williams, Roland Garros R4 Preview

?? Roland Garros, R4 Preview
?? (28) Maria Sharapova vs. ?? Serena Williams

Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams will renew hostilities when they meet at the fourth round stage at Roland Garros on Monday. This will be the 22nd chapter of the most talked about ‘rivalry’ in women’s tennis. Williams has absolutely dominated Sharapova, the American has won the last 18 matches between the pair. Nevertheless, Sharapova will be quietly confident heading into this match. It is Sharapova who is more match-hardened and brings the better form into this blockbuster clash, can Sharapova finally beat Williams?

Serena Williams of the United States in action during her third-round match at the 2018 Roland Garros Grand Slam tennis tournament

Maria Sharapova is looming as a real contender in Paris. The Russian started the event with a tough 3 set win over Richel Hogenkamp. Sharapova was in danger of a shock opening round exit when she trailed Hogenkamp 0-3 in the deciding set but the Russian rallied to win the next 6 games. Sharapova has improved as the tournament has progressed. The 28th seed claimed a decent 7-5 6-4 win over Donna Vekic in the opening round before producing a superb performance to thrash the 6th seeded Karolina Pliskova 6-2 6-1 in just under an hour. For the first Maria looks like her old self again.

Serena Williams continues to defy the critics. Unseeded, ranked outside the top 450, playing in her first Grand Slam since giving birth about a year ago, the odds are against Serena. However, Serena has risen to the occasion, as we should expect from the 23-time Grand Slam champion. Serena started her Paris campaign with a hard-fought 7-6 6-4 win over Kristyna Pliskova before battling from a set and a break down to defeat Ashleigh Barty 3-6 6-3 6-4. Serena produced her best performance since her return to the tour at the third round stage where she comfortably beat the 11th seeded Julia Goerges 6-3 6-4. Can Serena go all the way in Paris?

Williams holds a 19-2 H2H record over Sharapova and has won the last 18 matches between the pair. An obliteration. The most recent match between the pair was at the Australian Open in 2016, Serena won that match 6-4 6-1. Sharapova has never beaten Serena on clay, will that change on Monday in Paris?

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Karolina Pliskova vs. Maria Sharapova, Roland Garros R3 Preview

Roland Garros, R3 Preview
?? (6) Karolina Pliskova vs. ?? (28) Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova will face her first major test of the tournament on Saturday when she comes up against the 6th seeded Karolina Pliskova at the third round stage at Roland Garros. This is a huge opening week test for both Pliskova and Sharapova, both have been in great form of late and both will be keen to claim a statement victory and announce their title credentials in Paris.

Maria Sharapova of Russia in action during her second-round match at the 2018 Roland Garros Grand Slam tennis tournament

Karolina Pliskova continues to defy the critics and perform well on the red dirt. The 2017 Roland Garros semi-finalist started her 2018 campaign with a 7-6 6-4 win over Barbora Krejcikova before claiming a gutsy 3-6 6-4 6-1 win over Lucie Safarova. Pliskova flirted with danger in her match with Safarova as she found herself having to save break point to avoid going down a set and a break midway through the second set, Pliskova came through and did not face another break point for the entire match.

Maria Sharapova arrived in Paris high on confidence after runs to the quarter-finals in Madrid and the semi-finals in Rome. However, it was not a confident start to the tournament for Sharapova who laboured to a 6-1 4-6 6-3 victory over Richel Hogenkamp. Sharapova was down 0-3 in the deciding set against Hogenkamp before winning 6 straight games to avoid a shock loss. Sharapova produced a better performance in the second round as she defeated Donna Vekic 7-5 6-4, the Russian was notably more solid at the important moments in this match.

The only previous match between the pair took place in a Fed Cup tie in 2015, Sharapova won that match 6-3 6-4 on a hard court in Prague. Much has changed since then, can Pliskova reverse that result?

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Maria Sharapova vs. Richel Hogenkamp, Roland Garros R1 Preview

Roland Garros, R1 Preview
?? (28) Maria Sharapova vs. ?? (Q) Richel Hogenkamp

Maria Sharapova makes her 2018 Roland Garros debut with an opening round clash against Dutch qualifier Richel Hogenkamp, this will be Sharapova’s first appearance in Paris since 2015. Sharapova, a two-time former champion in Paris brings good form into this year’s event, the Russian is one of few multiple-time champions in the draw and will be confident she can feature deep into the tournament.

Maria Sharapova of Russia practices ahead of the 2018 Roland Garros Grand Slam tennis tournament

Sharapova arrives in Paris with confidence on her side, something she has lacked ever since her return from a doping ban. In recent times Sharapova reached the quarter-finals in Madrid and the semi-finals in Rome. Importantly Sharapova claimed numerous wins over quality opponents, the Russian defeated Buzarnescu, Begu, Mladenovic, Barty, Cibulkova, Gavrilova and Ostapenko across Madrid and Rome. This is the best form Sharapova has shown since her return to the tour.

Hogenkamp will be competing in the main draw in Paris for a second time. Hogenkamp earned her spot in the main draw with 3 tough victories in the qualifying draw. Hogenkamp defeated Imanishi, Jabeur and Andreescu to qualify for the main draw. Interestingly Hogenkamp was seemingly suffering with an injury in her 3 set win over Jabeur but she rebounded strongly to defeat Jabeur in straight sets a day later and book a place in the main draw in Paris.

The only previous match between the pair took place at Wimbledon in 2015 and it ended in a commanding 6-3 6-1 win for Sharapova at the second round stage. Will this be another comfortable victory for Sharapova?

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Maria Sharapova vs. Kiki Bertens, Madrid QF Preview

Mutua Madrid Open, QF Preview
?? Maria Sharapova vs. ?? Kiki Bertens

An intriguing quarter-final clash in Madrid sees Maria Sharapova and Kiki Bertens go head-to-head for the first time. Kiki Bertens continues to display her clay court pedigree, Bertens is one of the tour’s true clay court specialists and enters this match on a high after a big win over Caroline Wozniacki. Nevertheless Sharapova will not be intimated as Sharapova herself is very handy on the red dirt, Sharapova is a former champion in Madrid and will enter this match with a point to prove as she plays on the big stage of a big tournament for the first time in a while.

Both Sharapova and Bertens have progressed to the quarter-final stage in Madrid without dropping a set. Both have worked their ways through reasonably tough sections of the draw. Sharapova has claimed wins over Mihaela Buzarnescu, Irina-Camelia Begu and Kristina Mladenovic whilst Bertens beat Maria Sakkari, Anastasija Sevastova and Caroline Wozniacki on route to the final 8.

Sharapova and Bertens both enter this clash fresh off their best performances of the week. Sharapova defeated Kristina Mladenovic 6-3 6-4 whilst Bertens scored a big 6-2 6-2 win over the second seeded Caroline Wozniacki. This will be a battle between two players that posses huge power, albeit different types of power. The flat hitting of Sharapova against the heavy topspin of Bertens, who will prevail?

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Maria Sharapova vs. Kristina Mladenovic, Madrid R3 Preview

Mutua Madrid Open, R3 Preview
?? Maria Sharapova vs. ?? Kristina Mladenovic

Maria Sharapova and Kristina Mladenovic will renew hostilities when they meet at the third round stage of the Mutua Madrid Open. This is a big of grudge match, Mladenovic was one of the most vocal players in opposing Sharapova’s apparent lenient treatment and welcoming return to the tour after a doping suspension. The pair played out a tense match in Stuttgart last year in Sharapova’s return tournament and it was Mladenovic who came from a set down to win, can Sharapova get revenge in Madrid?

Maria Sharapova of Russia in action at the 2018 Mutua Madrid Open

Maria Sharapova has advanced to the third round in Madrid without dropping a set. Sharapova claimed back-to-back wins over Romanian’s. beating Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-4 6-1 and Irina-Camelia Begu 7-5 6-1. Sharapova’s wins were fairly similar, a tough opening set where the former Madrid champion seemingly broke the spirit of her opponents before running away with the match. Sharapova is playing some of the better tennis we have seen from her in 2018 across her first few matches this week, incredibly she won 19 straight points during the second set of her win over Begu.

Kristina Mladenovic has won back-to-back matches for the first time since Acapulco over 2 months ago. Mladenovic has good memories in Madrid having reached the final last year where she just fell short in an epic 3 set match against Simona Halep. Mladenovic is under pressure to defend those finalist points this year as she would like to remain in the top 30 and be seeded for Roland Garros which is just around the corner. Mladenovic started her 2018 Madrid campaign with a 7-5 6-0 win over CoCo Vandeweghe before beating Shuai Zhang 6-4 4-6 6-3.

The head-to-head record between the pair is split at 1 win apiece. The pair first met at Wimbledon way back in 2013 where Sharapova won in 2 tight sets, more recently it was Mladenovic who won 3-6 7-5 6-4 in Stuttgart last year.

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Naomi Osaka vs Maria Sharapova, Indian Wells R1 Preview

BNP Paribas Open, ??? Indian Wells R1 Preview
?? Naomi Osaka vs ?? Maria Sharapova

The pick of the opening round matches at the 2018 BNP Paribas Open sees two-time former champion Maria Sharapova come up against Japan’s Naomi Osaka. This will be the first career meeting between Osaka and Sharapova, an exciting match-up between two extremely aggressive players. Osaka has already claimed some big victories in her young career, can she add Sharapova to her list of high profile scalps? A determined Sharapova will be keen to deny one the tour’s brightest rising-stars.

Embed from Getty Images

Naomi Osaka has been quite consistent of late as she continues to make her way up the rankings. Osaka arrives at the BNP Paribas Open on the back of a decent couple of weeks in the Middle East. Osaka successfully qualified for the main draw in Doha before succumbing in the second round to Anastasija Sevastova. Whilst more recently Osaka reached the quarter-finals in Dubai, solid results after reaching the round of 16 at the Australian Open earlier this year. Osaka had a few good wins over Kristina Mladenovic and Anett Kontaveit in Dubai before being beaten by the eventual champion: Elina Svitolina. Osaka’s immense talent is undeniable, however her mentality is still an issue.

Maria Sharapova’s Middle Eastern swing certainly did no go to plan. Sharapova suffered a shock opening round exit at the Qatar Total Open, beaten by Monica Niculescu from a set and a break ahead. Sharapova would generally be disappointed with her start to the season, the former world number 1 has amassed a modest 5-3 win/loss record up until this point in the season. Sharapova will look to ignite her season in Indian Wells, a tournament where she has great memories having twice won the BNP Paribas Open.

It will be interesting to see how this first time meeting pans out. Osaka seemingly has the game to trouble Sharapova but does Osaka have the mentality to match the intensity and competitiveness of Sharapova?

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