In a surprising turn of events, Simona Halep’s untimely exit from the 2015 Australian Open has opened the doors for an all-Russian semi-final match-up between Maria Sharapova and Ekaterina Makarova. The two competitors eased into the final four in straight sets and will now contest their sixth meeting on the tour. Sharapova leads the head-to-head series 5-0 and will be looking to maintain that undefeated streak en route to the final.
While many anticipated a thrilling battle on Rod Laver Arena, the quarter-final match-up between Maria Sharapova and Eugenie Bouchard was entirely one-sided in favour of the Russian. She hit 18 winners, won 84% of her first service points and converted four break points to defeat her Canadian adversary 6-3, 6-2 in 1 hour and 18 minutes.
“I knew I had to play a really complete match,” Sharapova said in her post-match interview. “She’s someone who really goes after it and goes after her strokes, so I knew that the second and third balls would be really important. I knew I had to take time away from her and be aggressive – I wanted to get in the rallies a little bit, but I also wanted to do something on my own first few shots today.”
Earlier in the day, the first of the two women’s semi-finals featured a surprising upset, as one of the tournament’s favourites, Simona Halep, was ousted by 10th seed Ekaterina Makarova. It was a complete blowout, as the Russian won the match 6-4, 6-0 in just 69 minutes. While she did not play a fantastic match, it was Halep who played well below her regular standard.
“I was playing my best tennis, so maybe in the second set she was a little bit upset – maybe she didn’t understand what to do,” Makarova said. “But Simona is a great player. She had such a great season last year and can always turn the match around, no matter what the score, so I had to focus.”
This marks the sixth time that these two competitors will meet on the professional tour, with Sharapova maintaining an undefeated 5-0 record against her fellow Russian. Their last meeting on the tour took place in two years ago in Melbourne – a match that Sharapova dropped a mere four games in. While Makarova is paying some fantastic tennis, she is unlikely to win more than a set against the No. 2 seed.
Prediction: Maria Sharapova in Three Sets