Cincinnati Masters 2019, Round of 32: Ashleigh Barty vs Maria Sharapova, Preview and Prediction
The five-time Grand Slam champion and the former World No.1, Maria Sharapova, who returned to action at the Canadian Masters last week after an injury layoff, will now face the current World No.2 Ashleigh Barty in her upcoming second-round clash at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati.
In her Round of 64 clash, the Russian overcame Alison Riske 6-3, 7-6(7-4) to set up a rematch of their fourth-round encounter at the Australian Open earlier this year. Barty stunned Sharapova at the Rod Laver Arena.
In their head to headcount, apart from their meeting down under at the start of this year, the duo has faced each other just once before at the Rome Masters in 2018.
While the Australian got the better of Sharapova in their most recent encounter at Melbourne, the former World No.1 defeated Barty in three sets at the Italian capital and hence their head to head record is tied at one apiece.
As far as Ashleigh Barty is concerned, having won at Miami Masters 1000 event, French Open and Birmingham, she has been going through an incredible run so far this year. Her ascendance to the World No.1 ranking is just a byproduct of her tremendous grit and hard work.
However, following her wins at Roland Garros and Birmingham, the cricketer turned Australian tennis player has succumbed to shocking defeats to Riske and Sofia Kenin at Wimbledon and Toronto Masters respectively. Barty would hope to get herself back in form at Cincinnati before she begins her US Open campaign.
A win at Cincinnati would not only propel her confidence to great levels but also would make Barty a strong favourite to win the upcoming US Open crown.
For Maria Sharapova, her year so far has been plagued by injuries. Having undergone a shoulder surgery earlier this year in February, the Russian is hopeful for resurgence as she tries to maneuver her way back to the highest level in time before the all-important US Open gets underway in a fortnight.
The exciting Round of 32 clash between Sharapova and Barty promises to test one another to the fullest. If both these women play to their optimum potential, an intriguing contest awaits one and all at the Centre Court in Cincinnati.
The fortunes of Barty and Sharapova thus far in 2019 have been as polar opposites. While the Australian would aim to carry on her merry ways, the 32-year-old Russian would hope to bring about a turnaround to her fortunes in the remainder of her season.
Their upcoming second-round contest between Barty and Sharapova at such a crucial juncture can indeed act as a dress rehearsal for both these women as they aim to prepare for the US Open campaign in the best possible way.
Following first-round exits at Canadian Masters, can Barty get back on track in a bid to ascend to the World No.1 ranking or will Sharapova stun the Australian to announce her resurgence?
One can expect plenty of fireworks in the upcoming Barty-Sharapova contest at the Centre Court in Cincinnati.
Prediction: Ashleigh Barty to win in three sets.