The second day of women’s quarterfinals provides two compelling storylines. The first, Simona Halep’s continued quest for a first grand slam title. The second, Maria Sharapova’s fight to return to the top of the game. Both women are in action with the world number one, Halep, battling Angelique Kerber on Court Suzanne-Lenglen while Sharapova, still the biggest name in women’s tennis after Serena Williams, tests her aggressive game against Garbine Muguruza Court Philippe-Chatrier.
Simona Halep (1) v. Angelique Kerber (12)
Halep and Kerber have played ten times in their careers and each have won five matches. Their most recent encounter was an epic three set tussle in the semifinals of the Australian Open. Halep eventually won the match 9-7 in the third. The equality in their rivalry is fitting since their games are similar. Both prefer to play wall-like tennis, soaking up the aggression of power-hitting opponents. Kerber is the slightly more skilled retriever and Halep the better mover.
Halep’s 2018 has been almost entirely positive aside from a heavy loss in the finals of Rome, she has fought hard in every match, even ending up hospitalized because of dehydration after the final of the Australian Open. Both she and Kerber have played well at the French Open, but Halep has looked the more convincing overall. Halep’s level has risen with each round and her hunger for a first grand slam title has only grown with time. Clay is her best surface and with Serena Williams and Elina Svitolina out of the draw, Halep is in prime position to challenge for the title.
Expect an intense, physical match with Halep prevailing in two tight sets, possibly three if Kerber finds her best game.
Garbine Muguruza (3) v. Maria Sharapova (28)
The women’s quarterfinals today, much like the men’s, provide a contrast in styles. Halep and Kerber, like Nadal and Schwartzmen, rely on point construction and tenacity while Muguruza and Sharapova, like Cilic and del Potro, are aggressive power-hitters.
Muguruza has never beaten Sharapova, but the two also have not played since 2014. At that time, Muguruza had yet to win a grand slam or reach world number one. She has now done both. More significantly, this was before Sharapova was suspended for use of a banned substance and forced to take fifteen months away from tennis.
Even in 2014, the more experienced Sharapova did not overwhelm Muguruza. In the quarterfinals of the French Open that year, Muguruza pushed Sharapova hard, dominating the first set and narrowly losing the second before succumbing to the eventual champion in the third. This time, expect the script to be reversed. Sharapova is playing well and with each win, her confidence has grown, but this is still her deepest run at a major tournament since returning to competitive play. The match will be tough, but with two players who like to hit big and who rely on aggressive shot-making, Muguruza’s greater recent success will carry her to vitory. While she has not played consistently in 2018, Muguruza has the game and the mental fortitude to defeat Sharapova.
An unknown qualtity hanging over this match is Sharapova’s fitness. She has seemed comfortable on court, but often since her return has had to manage unexpected injuries when she has strung together wins at top events. Her walkover win in the foruth round will have given her plenty of time to rest, but a high intensity match against Muguruza could still provide a serious strain on her body.
Expect Muguruza to win in three sets, two of them close, one of them less so.