An intriguing third round meeting is scheduled to take place on Wednesday afternoon in Madrid, as defending champion Maria Sharapova continues her Spanish campaign for the title when she crosses paths against Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia for a fourth time on the tour. The two were supposed to meet in the semi-final round in Acapulco but Sharapova withdrew from the event with an injury. The Russian leads the head-to-head series 3-0.
Following a surprising string of early losses over the past month, including opening round exits in Miami and Stuttgart, Sharapova resumed her clay court upswing with solid back-to-back performances in Madrid. In her second match on court this week, she defeated Mariana Duque-Marino in straight sets to advance. She breezed through the encounter 6-1, 6-2 and struck 72% of her first service points, as well as saved all three break points faced to close the match out in one hour and 13 minutes of court time.
In a far more competitive second round match, Caroline Garcia was forced to play three whole sets against Czech adversary Karolina Pliskova before she finally found leeway and broke through to advance to the third round. She struck 12 aces, won 72% of her first service points and converted 4/11 break points to close out the match 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 in one hour and 33 minutes. Apart from a slight loss of focus in the second set, it was a solid showing from Garcia.
Considering Sharapova was dominant in their three previous encounters on the tour, it is unlikely that this match-up will prove any different. Garcia is yet to take a set off the Russian No. 1 and has never won more than four games in a set against her. She was bagled in her last match against Sharapova and has also lost to her on clay. Given the stats, this will likely be a match that heavily favours the defending champion.
Prediction: Maria Sharapova in Three Sets