The second of the round robin matches from day 1 of the 2015 WTA Finals in Singapore will feature the number three seed, Maria Sharapova against the number five seed, Agnieszka Radwanska at not before 7.30pm local time. The pair played in Singapore last year with Sharapova winning a lengthy encounter, 7-5 6-7 (2) 6-2.
The result of last year’s clash in Singapore somewhat masks the ramifications of the match. At one stage, Sharapova led 7-5 5-1; Radwanska won five straight games and saved three match points to force a second set tiebreak. Another double fault from Sharapova down set point gifted Radwanska the set. By virtue of dropping that set, it was Radwanska who qualified for the semi-finals last year and not Sharapova.
2015 has been a season of two halves for both Sharapova and Radwanska. Sharapova had an impressive first six months to the year, winning two titles in Brisbane and Rome, and reaching the final of the Australian Open. While there were a few disappointments, notably having to pull out of the semi-finals in Acapulco due to illness and early losses in Miami and Stuttgart, the former which can be attributed to a leg injury. However, the highs easily outweighed the lows. Illness played a part in Sharapova’s preparations for the French Open where she reached the fourth round, but she bounced back to make the semi-finals at Wimbledon.
Since the grass court season, Sharapova has played just once in a match she was unable to finish. A leg injury forced her to miss the entire summer hard court season and in her first match since Wimbledon, a wrist injury forced her to retire in Wuhan at the beginning of the third set against Barbora Strycova. Sharapova was the second player to qualify for Singapore this year which shows how well she performed during the first half of the year. It’s been nearly a month for Sharapova since Wuhan to recover but one of the main issues will be rust and having not competed for such a long time. Also, this isn’t a normal tournament and she will have to hit the ground running against top ten opposition.
Radwanska’s year has been a polar opposite to Sharapova; after a miserable first five months, Radwanska steadied the ship and has bloomed during the Asian Swing. Radwanska posted a 15-13 W-L record between Sydney and the French Open, failing to reach a final and losing to the world number 83, Annika Beck in the first round in Paris in what was her toughest loss of the year. Since the clay, Radwanska has found the form, consistency and confidence that has been ever-present during the last couple of years. Radwanska has won 33 matches since the French Open, including two titles in Tokyo and Tianjin, and heads into Singapore as one of the in-form players.
Sharapova leads Radwanska, 12-2 in a one-sided head-to-head. Radwanska’s wins have come at the US Open (6-4 1-6 6-2, 2007) and Miami (7-5 7-4, 2012). This will be the third time in four years that they have played at the WTA Finals with Sharapova winning their last two in three lengthy sets. The head-to-head cannot be ignored with Sharapova having the edge against Radwanska. Equally though, Sharapova’s lack of matches and injury concerns could counteract that. Factor in Radwanska’s decent form of late and i’m just edging towards the number five seed.
Prediction: Radwanska d. Sharapova in 3 sets