World No. 2 Maria Sharapova will begin her quest for a success title defense campaign at the French Open when she faces Kaia Kanepi in an interesting opening match in Paris. This marks the fifth time these two competitors will meet on the professional tour, with Sharapova holding an undefeated 4-0 record stretching back to the 2012 French Open.
After suffering a leg injury ahead of the Fed Cup several months ago, Sharapova lost her first clay court match of the season to Angelique Kerber in her first match in Stuttgart, where she was the defending champion. She immediately rebounded with a semi-final showing in Madrid, where she lost to fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova before furthering her reach in Rome, where she lifted the title following wins over Victoria Azarenka and Carla Suarez Navarro.
Since the start of the clay court season, Kanepi has only managed one win in two tournaments. She lost her opener in Marrakech to Teliana Pereira and then followed up with a win over Madison Keys in Madrid before losing to Sam Stosur in the second round.
“She’s played really well here at the the French Open,” Sharapova said of Kanepi. “I think we played here once at a much later stage, maybe fourth round or quarters, I believe. She’s capable of playing good tennis. She’s a big hitter and great server. It’s a tough start for me, but I don’t know when it’s ever really an easy one at a Grand Slam.”
Kanepi is yet to pick up her first ever victory over Sharapova. Her best performance came on hard court in one of their more recent encounter at the Brisbane International, where she won the opening set in the quarter-final before losing in the deciding set. However, that has done little to overturn the 4-0 head-to-head lead that Sharapova holds. While the Estonian is capable of another competitive encounter, it is unlikely she will be able to match Sharapova trademark resiliency or challenge her greatly in this opening round contest.
Prediction: Maria Sharapova in Straight Sets