A one time Australian Open champ (2008), Maria Sharapova will open play on Day 4 on Rod Laver Arena when she takes on Anastasija Sevastova. It is the Latvian who is the seeded player here at 14 while Sharapova looks to claw her way back to the top, standing currently at 48 in the WTA rankings.
For someone in the top 20, Sevastova remains fairly overlooked when it comes to predicting potential champions in an open women’s draw. Part of that may be down to her making just 2 grand slam quarter finals so far in her career but one of those was the most recent one last year in New York. She came from a set down to beat Varvara Lepchenko and grew as the match went on – facing no break points after she held for a 2-1 lead in a lengthy game in the second set.
The most notable thing about Sharapova’s return to the Australian Open was the scoreboard quirk that saw her full name displayed due to her opponent Tatjana Maria. She overwhelmed the German on return, winning 61% of points on second serve return on her way to a 6-1 6-4 victory. “It felt pretty routine. I have been here a week, practicing on the courts. Got used to all the different weather conditions that Melbourne presents to all of us. It’s been good.” she said.
If the previous two matchups are anything to go by, we could have a thriller on our hands. The pair split three set wins with Sevastova’s coming at the US Open at a time when it looked like the returning Sharapova was going to be favourite to win the title. A comeback win put paid to those hopes although disappointingly for her, she could not build on that and would lose in the quarter finals. Sharapova got a small form of revenge in Beijing in a wild match. She led 5-2 and also held match points in the deciding set but only secured victory in a tiebreak after saving a match point of her own.
Prediction – Sharapova in three sets