Last week’s good show in Madrid, showed improved focus from Maria Sharapova. It sets her up for a shot at a 4th Italian Open title.
Maria Sharapova Even Looked Good in Defeat
Winning three matches in a row, including a victory over the dangerous Kristina Mladenovic was eye-opening from the Russian. The Mutua Madrid Open 2018 was her best tournament for some time.
Before the final, she became the only player to take a set off of the clay specialist, Kiki Bertens. Disappointingly for Sharapova, she let a commanding lead slip and could not regain the impressive shot range and momentum she showed winning the first set. That said, if she is to win another Slam or Premier Mandatory event, then Sharapova needs more exposure to marathon matches. Losing a couple is all part of the process in re-building that mental toughness.
Aussie Ashleigh Barty First up in Rome 2018
First round opponent Ashleigh Barty is 3-2 on clay this season, having only played two tournaments. Whilst not her favoured service, if she gets her big serve in focus – she can be a tricky opponent.
Barty was forced to withdraw through injury ahead of the pair’s only scheduled previous meeting. This was in Brisbane 2014. This will be the first meeting between these seasoned pro’s. Sharapova will go into the match confident that her returning clay court prowess will be enough to secure victory.
Sharapova on 3rd round Muguruza Collision Course
The winner of Dominika Cibulkova and wild card Francesca Schiavone, greets Sharapova in the 2nd round, should she dispatch Barty. There are far tougher 2nd round matches, so the draw has been a little kind to the Russian.
Sharapova owns the head-to-head over Garbine Muguruza 3-0. This includes a victory in Rome (2013) and another one on clay at Roland Garros. Although, the last meeting between these two powerhouses of the game was in 2014- Sharapova would go into the match with confidence.
Jelena Ostapenko would be a potential quarterfinal opponent. That said, the Latvian is not showing great consistency and could slip-up along the way. Normally a Halep semifinal is a knee trembling experience. However, when you have a 7-1 head-to-head supremacy – you can be forgiven for thinking: “Bring it on!”.
Avoiding Banana Skins of Svitolina or Bertens until a Potential Final
Two opponents capable of unsettling Sharapova, Kiki Bertens and Elina Svitolina are in the other side of the draw. Bertens, as mentioned previously, put Sharapova to the sword in Madrid. However, Sharapova will have learned a lot from that match.
If Sharapova is to return to anywhere near the force of old. Rome is a great opportunity to do it.