Two of the WTA Tour’s most bankable stars will meet on Saturday night to battle for a place in the final of the Western and Southern Open. Check out the Sharapova v Ivanovic Head to Head matches.
Maria Sharapova booked her spot in the semis with one of her grittiest performances of the year. Down a set and a break to Simona Halep, the Russian dragged herself back into contention through sheer force of will. Her serve and groundstrokes were misfiring at the beginning of the match, and even when she did hit the lines Halep somehow got the ball back. But from midway through the second set Sharapova gradually asserted herself. She didn’t intimidate Halep, but she did remind her of what it would take to beat one of the most mentally tough players in the game.
By the closing stages of the 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 win, Sharapova was defending as well as she was dictating, even hitting a lefty forehand during one standout rally. She ended the contest with 53 unforced errors to her name, but that statistic paled into insignificance when compared to the immeasurable amount of heart and fight she showed. Having struggled in all of her hard court matches so far this summer, Sharapova proved once again what a formidable force she can be on the surface.
Ana Ivanovic’s quarter-final win was as smooth as Sharapova’s was tricky. The Serb took less than an hour to dismiss surprise package Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-3. Firing 25 winners past her inexperienced opponent, Ivanovic dominated from start to finish to reach the Cincinnati semi-finals for the first time since 2010. Following a disappointing showing in Montreal, Ivanovic is now firmly back on the list of US Open dark horses.
Two of the most intense competitors on the circuit, Sharapova and Ivanovic should put on a compelling show on Stadium Court. Maria leads the head-to-head 8-3, but Ana won the pair’s most recent encounter in Rome. Interestingly, they haven’t met on hard courts since 2012. Both will attempt to make the most of the faster surface by playing aggressively; chances are that whoever gets the first strike in will win the rally. Ivanovic is more comfortable moving forward than Sharapova, but the fifth seed is more reliable from the back of the court.
Ivanovic played a very clean match against Svitolina, but how will she deal with a higher quality opponent? She hasn’t played anyone ranked inside the top 20 this week, while Sharapova will be fresh from a morale-boosting defeat of the world number two. If Sharapova starts slowly again, Ivanovic will have time to find her groove. However, if Maria hits peak form early on then Ana might struggle to make an impact.
Prediction: We can expect as many errors as winners in this one, as well as some dubious serving, but a hungrier Sharapova will tough it out in three messy, hard-hitting sets.
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