US Open 2017 First Round Preview: Maria Sharapova vs Simona Halep

This is the match everyone’s been waiting for… Simona Halep takes on Maria Sharapova in a blockbuster match to kick off proceedings during the night session on the Arthur Ashe Stadium.

[WC] Maria Sharapova (No.146)

Recent performances

Cincinnati: WD

Toronto: WD

Stanford: 2R [WD]

Since her return back to the tour in Stuttgart, Maria Sharapova has been plagued by a couple of injuries. Her best tournament was reaching the semifinals in Stuttgart, winning three matches before falling to Kristina Mladenovic. But since then, Sharapova has not won back-to-back matches in any events. The Russian retired in Rome against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni with a thigh injury, then was forced to withdraw from all her grass court tournaments. She came back to action in Stanford where she beat Jennifer Brady in three sets in a rusty, but decent performance from the Russian. However once again she had to withdraw, this time with a forearm injury, before deciding not to participate in Toronto and Cincinnati, citing the same injury.

[2] Simona Halep (No.2)

Recent performances

Cincinnati: Final [i. Muguruza]

Toronto: SF [i. Svitolina]

Washington: QF [i. Makarova by ret.]

Simona Halep’s year continues to follow the same pattern – consistent but failing to win the matches in the latter stages of the tournaments. The Romanian had a decent summer, reaching at least the quarterfinal stage in Washington, Toronto and Cincinnati. She even had a fourth chance to claim the No.1 ranking in Cincinnati by beating Garbine Muguruza in the final, but tamely lost in a 1-6 0-6 loss to the Spaniard. Halep once again has a chance to take the No.1 ranking in NYC and is in the best position to do so out of the eight people who has a mathematical chance to get it. We will see if that affects her game once more in this match…

Head to head: Sharapova historically has done well in this match-up and leads the head to head 6-0. Their last meeting was in the 2015 WTA Finals where Sharapova won 6-4 6-4. In 2014, they played three epic three-set matches where Halep had her chances in.

Check out my main draw preview where I break down the draws of Pliskova, Halep and the other top players here.

Stat: Sharapova has only made one quarterfinal in four events this year (Stuttgart), while Halep has made 10 straight quarterfinals (her last event where she did not make the quarters was back in March in Indian Wells).

Thoughts: Halep always seems to bring out the best in Sharapova in this match-up and always struggles to keep up with Maria’s pace and dictate the points. From the WTA Insider Podcast, the two hosts noted that against big-hitters, Halep rarely mixes up the spins and paces and that’s what she needs to do against Sharapova.

However, the Russian player will definitely come into this match pretty rusty and this will be her first Grand Slam appearance since 2016’s Australian Open. Sharapova is also obviously struggling with her health so if she’s not at the top of the games there’s no way she can beat an amazing counter-puncher who brings back all the balls such as Halep.

A Peak Sharapova will definitely continue the dominance in the head to head, however she is still an uncertainty and we don’t know what to expect from her in terms of fitness and level. Anything patchy and rusty from her and Halep will sweep this up..

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