Defending champion Maria Sharapova is back at the BNP Paribas Open, where she will look to defend the title she won at the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens last year. The fourth seed will begin her campaign against Julia Goerges, as she will look to extend her undefeated streak as the Sharapova vs Goerges Head to Head stands at 3-0.
Fifth ranked Maria Sharapova is yet to make her mark in the 2014 season. She reached the semi-finals in Brisbane, the fourth round in Melbourne, and the semi-finals in Paris. Since then, she took time off to travel back to her native Sochi for the winter games, where she carried the torch during the opening ceremony. Having missed two important premier level events in Doha and Dubai, it will be interesting to see the shape Sharapova is in this week in Indian Wells.
Having dropped to No. 5 in the world following the shoulder injury that sidelined her last August, Sharapova will need a strong showing this week if she is to retain the ranking points she won last year. Her first task will be to defeat Julia Goerges.
Julia Goerges edged Cepelova 6-1, 2-6, 6-3 on Thursday afternoon to arrive at the second round match-up with Sharapova. In her recent performances, the former world No. 15 reached the second round of the Australian Open, the semi-finals in Pattaya City and the second round in Acapulco. A win over the Russian star would mark the best win of her season to date and easily one of the biggest in her career.
This marks the fourth time the two competitors will meet on the tour, with Sharapova leading the series 3-0. The last time they met was nearly three years ago in Tokyo, and while both players have gone through different stages over that period of time, Sharapova should still be the favourite to win this contest. If Sharapova appears rusty, Goerges has the tools to make this a tough three set contest, but will ultimately lose in a valiant effort.
Prediction: Maria Sharapova in Three Sets