Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Stuttgart, Marrakech day 4: Sharapova fights for her top 10 ranking

Match focus:

Maria Sharapova vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Maria Sharapova needs to reach at least the semi-finals to maintain her top 10 ranking, and is in real danger of losing it against the dangerous Pavlyuchenkova. The lower ranked Russian upset Sharapova in Paris earlier this year, and will be poised to notch another win against the famous Sharapova after the way she struggled mightily against Lucie. Pavlyuchenkova's game suits clay, but I think Sharapova wants this more. She fought her heart out in her opening match, and I won't be surprised if she did the same here. A close match definitely, but Sharapova will scrape through again.

Pick: Sharapova in 3 tight sets

Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Simona Halep

Svetlana Kuznetsova played very well against Barbieri, her first round match. It is always easy to play well against someone who you know isn't the same standard as you. Against Halep, Kuznetsova will need to play just as well. The problem with Svetlana is that her brain just wanders off sometimes. She starts going for outrageous winners and making ill advised shots. You won't expect that from Simona. The Romanian is very disciplined in her choice of shots, and even though she suffered a shock loss against Ivanovic in Fed Cup, I think her steady game will still prevail. Kuznetsova will make it interesting, but she won't win.

Pick: Halep in 3 sets

Yvonne Meusburger vs. Estrella Cabeza Candela

Yvonne Meusburger has to be one of the most underestimated players on tour. Sure, she will never match up with the top players, but she is a benchmark for players who want to go to the next level. There is a fine line between being a consistent top 20 fixture, and a player whose form fluctuates wildly from match to match. Beating Yvonne will prove that the player has what it takes, but losing to her means that the player will probably remain as a journeywoman. Estrella has the game on clay, but does she have the qualities of a top 20 or even 30 player? I don't think so. The Spaniard's game is fundamental at best, so Yvonne will tough out another close win.

Pick: Meusburger in 3 sets

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