Brisbane R1: (3) Maria Sharapova vs Ekaterina Makarova
2015 Brisbane International champion Maria Sharapova will begin her title defense with a tough opening round match against compatriot Ekaterina Makarova. Maria holds a perfect 6-0 head-to-head record over Ekaterina, however she will be wary of her dangerous countrywoman who often plays her best tennis during the Australian summer.
Maria Sharapova made a perfect start to her 2015 season by winning the title in Brisbane before reaching the Australian Open final where she ultimately fell to Serena Williams. Maria will again be hoping to use Brisbane to gain momentum heading into Melbourne. This is a big year for Maria, her spot in the top 5 seems vulnerable with a number of players nipping at her heels. A couple of early round exits in Australia will see her drop dramatically in the rankings.
Ekaterina Makarova has not played a competitive match since the U.S Open, injury kept her out of the entire Asian Swing and the Fed Cup Final. Makarova will be competing in the first week of the season for the first time since 2010, clearly she feels like she needs a few extra matches leading into Melbourne in 2016. Drawing Sharapova in the first round is quite brutal for Ekaterina, however she will see the match as a real opportunity to test herself and will come into this match feeling as though she has absolutely nothing to lose.
The last time these two met was at the semi-final stage of the Australian Open in 2015, Maria comfortably won that match 6-3 6-2. Makarova has really struggled in this match-up, claiming just one set against Maria which came all the way back in 2011 in their first ever clash. Makarova’s serve is very important in this match-up, she needs to mix things up whilst maintaining a high first serve percentage to keep Maria guessing otherwise she will be in big trouble once again. There is a bit of history between these two, a fiery encounter is to be expected.
Maria arrived early in Brisbane and has had a good amount of time to readjust to the conditions in the Queensland capital. Maria’s unbeaten record against Makarova is unlikely to end here, she should be strong enough to get through this one.