Last year’s Sony Open runner-up, Maria Sharapova, will begin her quest for her first title of the season with a second round encounter against Kurumi Nara. The first time encounter is one of the featured match-ups of the Centre Court night session.
Sitting outside the Top 5 in the WTA tour for the first time in recent memory, four-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova is currently on a slight downturn in her career. She failed to reach the final of any tournament this season, reaching the semi-finals in Brisbane and Paris, as well as the fourth round of the Australian Open. Arriving at Indian Wells as the defending champion, Sharapova was unceremoniously dispatched in the third round by Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi – a result which consequently sent her tumbling down the rankings to world No. 7.
Now carrying an 8-4 record this season, Sharapova will look to maintain her current ranking position with a strong showing in Miami to defend her finalist points.
World No. 45 Kurumi Nara reached the second round in Miami with a 7-6, 6-4 victory over Annika Beck. While she had only reached the WTA Top 100 last season, she leapt into the Top 50 this season following her title win at the inaugural Rio Open last month. She was unable to carry forth the momentum at Indian Wells, where she lost to Simona Halep in the second round of the event. She is currently 11-5 this season.
This is the first time Sharapova and Nara will meet on the professional tour. Nara is not a powerful player, preferring to rely on placement over strength, yet she will certainly be troubled by the lengthy Sharapova, who will likely earn a comfortable win en route to defending her finalist points at the event.
Prediction: Maria Sharapova in Straight Sets