Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic will clash in the Stuttgart final on Sunday. Both women won replays of important French Open clashes, matches they had also won when played at Roland Garros.
Sharapova beat Sara Errani 6-1, 6-2 in a rematch of their 2012 French Open final. Meanwhile, Ana Ivanovic saw off Jelena Jankovi 6-3, 7-5, emerging the winner just as she did in their French Open 2008 semi-final.
Sharapova and Ivanovic have also competed against each other in a couple of big slam matches. In 2007, Ivanovic thrashed Sharapova in straight sets to reach the 2007 French Open final. Sharapova then got her revenge in the 2008 Australian Open final winning 7-5, 6-3.
The head to head between the two is 7-2 in Sharapova’s favor. The Russian has won the last 3 matches between the two, all on clay. Their second to last battle was held in Stuttgart itself with Maria winning in 3 tough sets 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.
That was a match played under very different circumstances. Back then, Sharapova was the world no.3, the defending champion at Roland Garros and the undisputed Queen of Clay. Meanwhile Ivanovic was just finding her feet back at the top again and pushing the elite in her matches against them.
This year Sharapova is down to no.9 in the rankings, still struggling with her form after an injury lay off at the end of last season, and was toppled from her Queen of Clay throne by Serena Williams who drubbed her three times on the surface last season, including in the French Open final.
Ivanovic on the other hand is coming off one of her most successful runs in a long while, including a remarkable defeat of Serena Williams in the last sixteen at the Australian Open. Sharapova will know only too well how much confidence winning against Serena can give you. And she knows even better how losing to Serena can take your confidence away.
The final will be tightly contested. Sharapova has played her best tennis since last year’s Stuttgart tournament which she won. Her first round win over Safarova in which she recovered from letting a 5-1 third set lead slip to trail 5-6, 0-30 seems to have knocked the rust out of her. Meanwhile Ivanovic, the recent Monterrey winner, has beaten a formidable group in Lisicki, Georges, Kuznetsova and Jankovic on her march to the final. With her first two opponents being German, the popularity of Sharapova, the two time defending Champion, will not faze her.
In fact, as the underdog and an established WTA Star, Ivanovic will have a lot of the crowd rooting for her, keen to anoint her comeback as complete with a victory at one of the tour’s most prestigious events. Ivanovic will certainly give them something to cheer about. Though the match up does not favor her, she is in form, and has proven she can beat Sharapova on Clay in that 2007 Roland Garros win.
The WTA will win either way whoever drives away in the Porsche or takes the prize money come tomorrow. Either player as champion will guarantee headlines. More importantly, whoever wins will get some much needed confidence coming into the red Clay season which has been lucrative for both and could prove to be once again with a win in Stuttgart.