1. Maria Sharapova v Caroline Garcia (Madrid, R3)
If you haven’t seen the third set of Caroline Garcia‘s victory over Karolina Pliskova then i’d definitely recommend it. Garcia defeated Pliskova, 6-2 4-6 6-1 in a high quality second round match that featured 69 winners. Garcia finished with 40 winners to 18 unforced errors, which is some of the best stats i’ve seen all year. The crazy thing was that Pliskova had to work sooo hard just to win that one game in the decider and she didn’t play badly at all. It was a supreme display from Garcia… when she puts it altogether like this, it’s magical.
Garcia’s reward is a third round tie with Maria Sharapova. Straight set wins over Timea Bacsinszky (6-2 6-3) and Mariana Duque-Marino (6-1 6-2) have given Sharapova a solid platform to build on for this tournament. Despite a second round loss to Angelique Kerber in Stuttgart, there didn’t seem to be any major concerns with her clay-court game. Sharapova leads the head-to-head 3-0; Garcia gave Sharapova a huge scare at Roland Garros in 2011 but since then, Sharapova has won both their matches in straight sets. If Garcia can bring her A-game to this match, she stands a chance. I’d be surprised though if she can maintain that level for long enough to take out Maria. It’s a shame this is first up (with most likely, a sparse crowd) because it could be a really meaningful contest.
Prediction: Sharapova d. Garcia in 3 sets
2. Ana Ivanovic v Carla Suarez Navarro (Madrid, R3)
The good matches keep on coming in Madrid as Ana Ivanovic and Carla Suarez Navarro will play fourth on Stadium 3… i’m slightly baffled by the scheduling as you’d expect this match to at least be on one of the top two courts, but the women always get a rough deal in Madrid. Ivanovic, who confirmed in her press conference today that she has split with her coach Dejan Petrovic, enjoyed one of her best wins of the year, defeating Elina Svitolina, 6-3 6-4. This was her sixth consecutive victory against the 20-year-old Ukranian. I only watched the last couple of games, but it looked like Ivanovic was rewarded for her boldness. Ivanovic got noticeably nervy at the end as she committed two double faults when trying to serve out the match and faced a break point. However, she battled through to secure a confidence-boosting victory. Ivanovic finished with 38 winners, 25 more than Svitolina managed during the 81 minute contest.
Suarez Navarro has been so reliable this year and since the Australian Open, has won at least two matches at every tournament she has played. On Tuesday, she edged Julia Goerges in straight sets, 6-3 7-5. Carla lost her break in the second set, but was always ahead on serve and broke at 6-5 to seal her place in the last 16. Ivanovic leads the head-to-head with Suarez Navarro, 2-0; their last match was a cracker in Rome. The quality was really super and it felt like one of those matches that got forgotten over the year. In case you missed it, I wrote about it in my top 20 countdown of WTA matches at the end of last year HERE.
So who’s going to win? I’m really stumped with this one. Pre-tournament, I would have said Carla. However, I think the win today will have given Ivanovic a real boost in confidence and if she plays aggressively and manages to be reasonably consistent, I think she will have too much firepower for the Spaniard. This may just be me (my analysis of court speeds always seems to be way off!) but the outside courts seem quicker and Ana played her match on stadium 3 against Svitolina. On the other hand, Carla’s been winning alllll year and proving everyone (*raised hand*) wrong. I feel like it’s risky picking Ana, but heyyy here I go…
Prediction: Ivanovic d. Suarez Navarro in 3 sets