WTA Finals Singapore, Day 3 Preview: Simona Halep v Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova

The stand-out match from the red group illuminates the schedule for day 3 at the WTA Finals in Singapore. The two winners from day 1, Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova, will go head-to-head for the first time in 2015 with Halep seeking her first ever win over Sharapova.

In her first completed match since Wimbledon, Sharapova fought back from a set down to defeat Agnieszka Radwanska, 4-6 6-3 6-4, and extend her head-to-head record against the Polish player to 13-2. It was a thoroughly entertaining match and Sharapova battled hard to come from a set down before overcoming a late wobble to seal the win in two hours and 47 minutes. Both players had their opportunities on each other’s serves in a high quality first set but it was Radwanska who broke first in the eighth game and then served it out with aplomb. Radwanska produced just three unforced errors along with a couple of strokes of magic including a no-look half volley winner and a backhand overhead smash.

Radwanska seemed to lose her concentration at the start of the second set as Sharapova went up an early break. Radwanska mounted a brief comeback to prevent Sharapova from taking the double break to lead 5-1 but her challenge ended when she failed to hold her serve at 3-4. Sharapova won the second set with an almighty roar. The third set had a number of pivotal moments; perhaps the key game was Sharapova serving at *0-1 where she saved three break points in a seven deuce game that lasted 13 minutes. Sharapova’s power and precision (most of the time!) was once again the telling factor as she broke in the very next game and again to lead *5-2. Sharapova failed to serve it out at the first time of asking showing signs of rust; this was understandable having not played a completed competitive match for three months.

Radwanska had her chances when Sharapova served for the match at *5-4 but could not take them. Despite a double fault on her first match point, Sharapova sealed her first win since Wimbledon on the second match point.

The first singles match of the WTA Finals was over in just 70 minutes as Halep produced an excellent display to turn the tables on the US Open champion, Flavia Pennetta, with a 6-0 6-3 victory. Halep lost just eight points on her serve throughout the entire match, saving the only two break points she faced at the beginning of the second set. The danger signs for Halep were there on the third point when Pennetta unleased a backhand down-the-line winner. However, Pennetta never really settled and Halep was by far the more consistent player, barely giving anything away. The court in Singapore seems to suit Halep’s game and allow her time to implement her gameplan. Against Pennetta, she was aggressive and didn’t let her take control of the baseline rallies.

There were a few more errors from Halep in the second set but she maintained control of the match by powering through her service games. She served extremely well but Pennetta’s returning was also off. Halep finished the match with 13 winners to 14 unforced errors, and it was a perfect start as the difference between straight sets and three sets could have a big impact come the end of the week. After losing to Pennetta at the US Open and enduring a rocky Asian Swing, this was an ideal opener for Halep which will give her a solid platform to build on for the rest of the tournament.

Sharapova leads Halep, 5-0 in their head-to-head; the pair played three times in 2014 with all three matches going the distance. The highlight of the three was the final of Roland Garros, one of the best women’s Grand Slam finals in recent years. Sharapova won that match, 6-4 6-7(5) 6-4. Halep won the first set of their other 2014 clashes in Madrid and Cincy but Sharapova fought back to win both in three. The quarter-final match in Cincy was another excellent match and a crushing blow for Halep as it looked for a time like it might be the one where she finally got Sharapova.

I’m excited about this match-up but i’m not confident in making a pick! Originally i picked Sharapova over Halep pre-tournament. After the first set of matches from the red group, i’m swaying! I believe that Halep has more strengths compared to Radwanska that can threaten Sharapova and although the head-to-head is a concern, the last three matches have all been close. Sharapova produced an encouraging display against Radwanska but the rust is still there and for some reason, I think that could be more apparent in this match. Halep’s win over Pennetta will have been a real confidence booster and I think that she won’t be better placed to score a win over Sharapova. It won’t be easy, particularly against a fearsome competitor and with the head-to-head as it stands, but my hunch is that Halep might break her duck in this one.

Prediction: Halep d. Sharapova in 3 sets

Photo in this post by Jimmie48 Tennis Photography

19 thoughts on “WTA Finals Singapore, Day 3 Preview: Simona Halep v Maria Sharapova

    • I have the same feeling too. Sharapova is still Sharapova. She is not fit but she can turn into clay (RG) mode on this granny court in Singapore may just work for her.

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  1. I do not know what to think of this match. Yes, Sharapova rusty, and yes, Halep played well, but I think it was just because Pennetta played so much below par. Halep has a tendency to get frustrated with herself, and Maria will not give up. I feel like Maria’s accuracy and tendency to make errors will be much better after having played one match. This match can definitely go either way.

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  2. If there is ever a time to defeat Maria now is the time,yes her game still has rust,which is understandable,though Maria will not go down without a great fight.Halep has to be on her game 100 per cent and not falter,though I was impressed with her win over Flavia,this will be a bigger test,I will pick Halep in 3 sets.

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  3. I’m so much looking forward to watching this match! So fingers crossed it will be good!!! I somehow have the feeling that Halep might get her first ever win against Sharapova who was very rusty and pulled through against Radwanska. IMO Radwanska clearly had that 3rd set on her racket when she had 15:40 at Sharapova’s service (5*:4 for Sharapova) but somehow chose the wrong side of smashing so that Sharapova was able to get the ball back. I think that was the turning point and gave Sharapova the edge in the end. I’m very much convinced that Radwanska would have won it if she’d won that one point.
    Halep, in contrast, played a clean match – therefore: Halep d. Sharapova in three

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    • Playing a honeymoon mode Pennetta. What indication do you want to have? Furthermore, Halep has more times to practice in Singapore than Pennetta (she rushed to Singapore right after Moscow) already gained advantages over many opponents. Halep is a good player and may be able to win one or two grand slam with some good draws in the future. At least, I believe Muguruza will beat her anytime from now onward.

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  4. I think the circumstances are right for a Simona win in two sets — the first easy, the second tough. If, however, Maria manages to push it into a decider, I think she may well win the mental battle there.

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  5. Sharapova has nothing to lose since she has injuries. As for Halep, she has nothing to prove because she is playing someone not 100% match fit. Furthermore, this dead court is tailored made for her. On the other hand, Sharapova will only get better when the tournament proceed further. Sometimes, Halep is slightly overrated. She always have a WOW performance (playing with lousy or not-in-form opponents) and then loses miserably (usually will blame her injuries again).

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    • Kidman i think you’r wrong about halep. it’s kind of the opposite of what u said. if you look at halep’s losses u’ll see that she usually looses to lousy or not-in-form players (maria lucic baroni at RG, jana cepelova at Wimbledon and flavia pennetta was a big surprise at US O) and gives her best to top players…

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      • You are absolutely wrong. She lost to in-form but lower rank players like Barroni and Maldenovic except Muguruza. How about Pennetta defeated her in USO and Pennetta was in form.Your’re liar!

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  6. I’m thinking the Aga v Flavia match is the pivotal match up to unlock this group.
    Should Radwanska win, it may put more pressure on Halep to come through this one cause it will likely reduce the chance of her final match against Aga ending in tears for either girl. Losing to Maria could make for a fascinating last group match against Aga. Likewise, if Flavia wins, the onus will be on Maria to to win . Playing her final group match against Pennetta will be a nervy encounter if she loses to Halep. She could come undone.
    Halep’s style of play can be deceptive sometimes, and as much as Flavia was error prone, Simona could also have put up a dogged resistance should Flavia have been on fire, she can be a tough competitor. In a sense, Maria may be the fresher of the two, but her lack of matchplay fitness may count a lot more in this encounter.
    I love and loathe round robin matches for this reason, everything could be settled by the second round matches or there could be nail biters all round till the ‘fat lady sings’. You never know what you’ll get.

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    • Agree with a lot of your comments, let’s play! I know what you mean about the Round Robin format. Personally, i’d love to see a knock-out format with the top 16 players.

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  7. It will be fun to see if Sharapova beats Halep and then Radwanska saves herself by beating Halep in her last match. Sharapova and Penetta both reach the SF! Anything can happen in this tournament.

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  8. People predicted Halep to win this match because she had beaten the below par and jet lag USO champion proved to be delusional. Well a not 100% match fit Sharapova defeated a peak and 100% fit Halep said it all. She owned Halep.

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  9. This is why I NEVER underestimate Maria. People always write her off, but I knew she would win. Not to mention in straight sets!!! GO MARIA

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