Since shifting towards clay courts this season, Maria Sharapova has begun to show shades of her former self prior to surgery. It began last week when she managed to defend her title at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix with a victory over Ana Ivanovic in the final. She also held wins over Radwanska and Errani in the draw, as well as a grueling triple tiebreak encounter with Lucie Safarova in the opening round of the tournament. This was a testament to her shoulder, which managed to withstand the intensity, and was a good sign that her recovery was nearing its end.
She carried forth that momentum in her opening round match in Madrid, as the eighth seed defeated world No. 31 Klara Koukalova in dominant fashion. She lost only three games in the entire encounter and was off court in 63 minutes. Her only issue was hitting more double faults than aces, as the ratio was 4:1 respectively.
“It was a good start for me,” Sharapova said. “Obviously the first match at a new event is always challenging because you don’t know what to expect, especially coming off the indoor tournament last week. It’s always an adjustment to get yourself prepared for the first round. I’m happy that I won in two good sets today.”
McHale defeated fellow American Lauren Davis in the opening round in Madrid 7-6(2), 6-3. The win snapped a two-match losing streak dating back to Miami and set up the second round encounter with Sharapova.
This marks the fourth time these two competitors will meet on the professional tour, with Sharapova holding an unbeaten 3-0 record against McHale. The American has rarely made it a competitive encounter either, as Sharapova has never dropped a set to the youngster. They also met in the second round of this event last year, which Sharapova dominated 6-1, 6-2. Expect similar results in their 2014 meeting in Madrid.
Prediction: Maria Sharapova in Straight Sets