Maria Sharapova has only managed intermittent play on the women's tour ever since her return from the doping ban as injuries continue to disrupt her progress. The Russian is set to make another bid to return at the 2020 Brisbane International, where she has been handed a tough draw. Looming for her in the quarters are fellow Grand Slam champions Petra Kvitova, and Sloane Stephens, but first up for Sharapova is the dangerous young American Jennifer Brady.
The American qualifier has made steady progress over the past couple of years and is at a career high ranking of no. 53 in the world rankings. While this was not enough to get a direct entry into the main draw, she has stormed her way through the qualifiers, getting some early match practice on the Brisbane hardcourts en route to the main draw. Add to that the fact that her particular style of play has worried Sharapova in the past. Brady plays an assured game from the baseline, which if not the most explosive, is very consistent and aggressive.
Sharapova, on the other hand, relies solely on the power and strength of her groundstrokes to win points. Fitness is a crucial element for her game to work and if she is even slightly under her best in that department, the Russian finds it hard to win points. For her game to work, she needs to be hitting winners right from the start. If Brady can frustrate Sharapova with some good defence early on, it is only a matter of time till the Russian's game unravels on its own. Brady is aware of this. She knows that she is not going to win this match by competing with Sharapova in the power department. She will need to be smarter and play some crafty tennis to get herself within a winning chance for this one.
Prediction: Maria Sharapova to win in 3 sets