Maria Sharapova will look to finally mount a charge up the rankings after an injury-hit 2019, beginning with a tough first round match against Donna Vekic. The Russian has performed well in Melbourne in the past, making the final three times – with a 2008 victory the pick of the bunch.
Sharapova had not played since the US Open when taking to the court in Brisbane a few weeks back and looked understandably rusty in a final set tiebreak defeat. However, she isn’t too down on herself coming into this tournament. “I definitely look forward to going to Australia and seeing how things go, see how the body holds up there.“It’s tough to tell, I’ve barely played any events last year.” she said. “The start and stopping was one of the most challenging parts of the year as well, just when you think I got going a little bit I had to tone it down and stop and then just keep training. Although it seems I haven’t played actually I’ve been working a lot.”
Having lost in the second round last year, the current No. 20 Vekic will have a strong opportunity to surpass her career high ranking of 19. The Croatian has been making gradual improvements, creeping up the rankings and she well may be ready to launch a bid for the top 10 – especially with a strong run here. It should be her best opportunity to make the third round in Melbourne for the first time with the winner of this match playing either Alize Cornet or Monica Niculescu.
Sharapova played few matches last year and did look shaky when taking on the tour’s better players in most instances. A draw against a dangerous seed is far from ideal for the Russian, who may see her attempted return halted very quickly once more.
Prediction – Donna Vekic in three sets