The stage is set for a mouth-watering and blockbuster clash between two former World Number 1’s – Australia’s Ashleigh Barty and Russia’s Maria Sharapova tonight. Barty has had a fantastic season where everything has gone right for her. A great adjustment in her top-spin heavy game plus improvement in court coverage has ensured exceptional performances in many tournaments this season. 80%-win percentage in the last 12 months is a staggering stat that Barty would be proud of.
Barty was a runner-up in the Sydney Open, a quarterfinalist in the Australian Open and Madrid Open, champion in Miami Open, French Open, the Birmingham Classic and won the women’s doubles title partnering Azarenka in the Rome Open. The only minor blip was shocking losses in the pre-quarterfinals to Americans Alison Riske in the Wimbledon and Sofia Kenin in the Rogers Cup – round of 32.
However, she compensated below-par performances by reaching the women’s doubles semifinals in the Rogers Cup where she and Azarenka lost to the top seed pair of Czech Republic – Krejcikova/Siniakova.
On the other hand, Sharapova has strongly faced everything that life has thrown at her – a 15-month doping ban, serious injuries hampering her comeback plans and multiple last-minute pull-outs of tournaments. She has however practiced very hard and the power in her groundstrokes is still intact. Sharapova is a great example to other players on the tour that mental strength and self-belief can enable you to overcome any tough circumstance.
Barty holds the edge in modifying the game according to the nature of the opponent and possesses a lot of variety in her game with an assortment of shots- clever slices, delicate drop shots, booming aces.
The head to head record between Barty and Sharapova is equally poised at 1-1. Sharapova beat her in Rome in 2018 while Barty got her revenge beating her in Melbourne in 2019. Both the matches went the distance to the 3rd set and fans can expect the trend to repeat tonight.
Barty would look to trust her to serve for winning games and her nerve for winning the breakpoints while Sharapova would be looking to take the first set to be in the driver’s seat. Sharapova needs her rock-solid defense to stay consistent throughout the match.
Prediction – Ashleigh Barty to win in three sets.
A Journalism student from ACJ with previous work experience as a content writer. I love writing about tennis and my blogs have been published on Sportskeeda and SportCo.