In a terrific first round contest in Stuttgart, Maria Sharapova defeated Lucie Safarova, 7-6(5) 6-7(5) 7-6(2) in three hours and 23 minutes. The first two sets featured some tremendous tennis and although the third may not have been of such high quality, it was laden with drama. Sharapova led 5-1 in the third set, but Lucie staved off three match points and fought incredibly hard to win the next five games. Lucie then served for the match, but was unable to get the job done as she served up two double faults. The final set tiebreak saw Lucie wobble and Sharapova stay solid, posting her ninth consecutive win in Stuttgart.
The last three matches between Sharapova and Safarova have been curiously similar. Sharapova has won all of them in three sets with Safarova winning the middle set in a tiebreak. For a few minutes, I thought this one might snap the trend. This match was one of the most tense of the year and I do have a real soft spot for Lucie so I was gutted with the result. This tweet below was a classic…
This match kind of summed up Safarova’s year. She has been very solid for the most part, but just couldn’t get the job done in the crucial moments. In the nine tournaments she has played this year, Lucie has lost to a top ten player in seven of them. She has taken sets off Li Na, Petra Kvitova, Simona Halep and Sharapova in Miami, but just keeps coming up short. In Melbourne, she was inches away from knocking out the eventual champion, Li. Safarova did remarkably well to actually force the decider as she saved some break points and came from a 2-4 deficit in the second set tiebreak. I feel like Lucie is getting closer and closer to that big win. Her whole career has been defined by these tough moments, but I remain hopeful that one day, something will click and she will be on the happy side of one of these results. One thing for sure, when / if that day comes, I’ll be beaming for Lucie!
Although Sharapova struggled to close out this match, she played some really good tennis in this one and served particularly well. Her tournament will not get any easier as she plays Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the second round. Pavs beat Sharapova in Paris earlier this year, but i’d back Maria to dig her heels in again and get through that one. Stuttgart has started in real style and this Sharapova v Safarova match has laid down a solid marker for one of the best WTA matches of 2014.
WTA Stuttgart 2nd Round Predictions
Sara Errani d. Kaia Kanepi in 3 sets
Petra Kvitova d. Alisa Kleybanova in 2 very tight sets
ATP Barcelona 2nd Round Predictions
Rafael Nadal d. Albert Ramos in 2 sets
Feliciano Lopez d. Ivan Dodig in 3 sets
Fernando Verdasco d. Kenny De Schepper in 2 sets
Nicolas Almagro d. Martin Klizan in 2 sets
Fabio Fognini d. Santiago Giraldo in 3 sets
Jurgen Melzer d. Jerzy Janowicz in 3 sets
Marin Cilic d. Andrey Kuznetsov in 2 sets
Alexandr Dolgopolov d. Albert Montanes in 2 sets
David Ferrer d. Teymuraz Gabashvili in 2 sets