Roland Garros, Fourth Round Match Previews
1. Serena Williams (No.449) vs  Maria Sharapova (No.30)
Even with the one-sided head to head, the fourth match up on Philippe Chatrier court is the match of the day as Serena takes on Maria for the 22nd time in their careers and first meeting since the 2016 Australian Open. Both players have dropped one set enroute to this stage – starting slowly against Kristyna Pliskova and Ashleigh Barty, Serena has surely found her foot back on tour after a convincing performance against Julia Goerges in the third round. Serena’s serve is still the best on the tour; though her movement may be still lacking, her B game can still defeat top 20 players easily.
While Maria definitely has had more competitive matches coming into Roland Garros, much like Williams, Sharapova started the tournament slowly. Her groundstrokes were insecure to start and soon found herself trailing 0-3 in the deciding set to Richel Hogenkamp. However, in typical Maria fightback style, she came back from that deficit and has improved her game immensely in her next matches, proving so with a 6-2 6-1 demolition job of World No.6 Karolina Pliskova.
Head to head: Serena leads the head to head 19-2 – Maria’s last win over the American came 14 years ago, with Serena winning 18 straight matches in this match-up. If there’s a time Maria can ever record another win against Serena, the time is now.
Thoughts: Serena is always able to magically raise her intensity against Sharapova and even if she hasn’t played any competitive matches prior to this event, she’s one of the best at finding her footing quickly and has done so this week. Sharapova never seems to be able to anticipate where the Williams’ serve or groundstrokes are heading and thus, her movement will need to be very good and she will need to adopt an ultra-aggressive game to allow Serena less chances to dictate play. Unless Serena has a huge off day, it’s going to take a lot out of Maria to record the win…
Final Prediction: Serena Williams d. Maria Sharapova in two tight sets
2.  Angelique Kerber (No.12) vs  Caroline Garcia (No.7)
Kerber is definitely not a player who is known for playing on the outdoor clay but the German has done very well to edge out all of her opponents in straight sets this week. Kerber defeated Mona Barthel and Ana Bogdan with 6-2 6-3 scorelines, and produced a peak solid display to outlast clay-court specialist Kiki Bertens in two 7-6(4) sets. Kerber has recorded six wins on the outdoor red clay this year, compared to two wins in 2017 and one win in 2016. She’s always been able to play on the clay but with her new coach Wim Fissette, she’s really believing she can play well and she’s showing it on the court right now.
The Parisian crowd’s last hope for the singles tournament is now fully placed on Garcia – she’s the only French player remaining in both the men’s and women’s singles draws! Caroline’s been playing great this week and has only dropped one set so far (against Peng Shuai). Irina-Camelia Begu, Garcia’s third round opponent was expected to give her an even harder challenge but it was not to be. Garcia only dropped four games and hit 18 winners to 13 unforced errors, whilst winning 77% of first serve points.
Thoughts: Kerber leads the head to head 4-2, with Garcia winning their only match on a clay court in 2014. Kerber won their recent match-up 6-1 6-1 with Garcia unable to handle Kerber’s brilliant defense. I’m not very sure on this one as I haven’t seen most of their matches this week, but I think Kerber will win the majority of the big points with her rising confidence and experience. Garcia hasn’t been troubled too much in this tournament and Kerber’s level will be a step more difficult than her previous opponents.
Final Prediction: Angelique Kerber d. Caroline Garcia in three sets
3.  Simona Halep (No.1) vs  Elise Mertens (No.16)
Halep has done very well to get out of some tough situations this week and is into the second week for the fourth time in her career. Halep is another player who has started the tournament slowly but has started to improve match by match. Coming through 2-6 6-1 6-1 against Alison Riske, Halep’s groundstrokes have looked more secure in wins over Taylor Townsend and Andrea Petkovic.
Mertens has done very well to match her seeding this week after starting the tournament pretty slowly as well. After a peak 6-7 7-6 6-0 scoreline win against Varvara Lepchenko, Mertens has settled in with straight-set wins over Heather Watson and Daria Gavrilova. Mertens started the week really passive and unwilling to go for her shots, but against Gavrilova she was aggressive when she had the chances to do so – her backhand was working really well and hit 19 winners to 10 unforced errors.
Thoughts: Halep-Mertens in Madrid was a letdown but I don’t think it will be so easy for Halep this time round as Mertens was ill in that encounter. Mertens can definitely cause a ton of problems for Halep if she’s playing positively with her line groundstrokes, but when it comes to the important moments Halep’s experience should come through. An upset alert, but in the end the Romanian should prevail.
Final Prediction: Simona Halep d. Elise Mertens in three sets
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