Looking to follow up her amazing win over Halep, Maria Sharapova faces Timea Babos in the second round of the US Open as the former world number one and five-time Grand Slam champion looks to make maximum use of the wildcard awarded to her. This is Sharapova’s first Grand Slam since the 2016 Australian Open and she looks to carve a deep run considering how favorable her draw is. Though, Babos looks to spoil the party for the Russian as she aims to regain her confidence with a win here.
Sharapova’s first round match
Sharapova relied on a wildcard to enter the main draw but being unseeded caused her to be given the worst draw possible; being drawn against world number two Simona Halep in the first round. Nonetheless, Sharapova arguably played the best match of her comeback thus far as she claimed her first Top 10 victory since November 2015 and first Grand Slam win since January 2016. Coming into the match as the huge underdog without any match play and full of injury concerns, the possibility of a Sharapova triumph was small.
However, she proved everyone wrong and simply looked clinical on her forehand, prevailing in three tough sets in a possible Match of the Year contender. The Russian lost a 6-4 4-1 AD-40 lead and lost five straight games from there, but she managed to regain her composure in the deciding set and took the win against the Romanian after exactly 2 hours and 45 minutes of play.
Babos’ first round match
Babos’ opening round was not much easier than Sharapova, having to endure through a 2 hour and 36 minutes marathon against Viktorija Golubic to progress to the second round. Coming into the US Open very low on confidence especially after winning only three of her last 17 matches, amassing an 18 percent win record in the past few months. Babos looked solid on her serve and won the first set 7-5 before losing the second with the same scoreline. Another defeat looked to be incoming as she fell behind a break in the final set with her opponent earning break points for a double break advantage but impressively fought back to prevail in three tight sets for a meeting with Sharapova.
Unexpectedly, this is the first meeting between these two hard-hitters. It would be interesting to see if Babos could play her best tennis against the Russian or if Sharapova could follow up her amazing first round victory.
In terms of service, Babos edges in the power aspect while Sharapova has the advantage when it comes to precision and consistency. The Hungarian’s first serves often go above the 110 mph mark and could produce aces after aces if it were to be firing on all cylinders. However, when Babos is unable to find her range, she could be very inconsistent and she would either start serving multiple double faults or be putting in a couple of vulnerable second serves which Sharapova could pounce on. Meanwhile, Sharapova has the better serve in terms of placement especially when she is able to utilize the angles to win her some free points. The Russian needs to have a high first serve percentage to increase her chances of winning.
When it comes to groundstrokes, both players are equally as powerful. However, consistency once again comes into play as Sharapova is the more consistent player despite both players being able to be erratic at times. Babos would look to dictate play in this encounter but it would be very difficult to do so against an offensive player like Sharapova, whose forehand looked amazing in her unbelievable first round win over Simona Halep.
However, Babos definitely has the edge in net play. The Hungarian was a former Grand Slam doubles finalist and was once ranked in the Top 10, and surely possess some impressive net skills to be able to claim all her achievements. Sharapova often commits unnecessary unforced errors at the net and is very leaky there, thus explaining her lack of net points during her matches. Babos could use Sharapova’s weakness as an advantage but has to beware of the Russian’s formidable lobs and passing shots.
Babos has been in poor form and the win over Golubic could have just increased her confidence at the crucial moments. She would be motivated to beat Sharapova in what could be the best win of her career, but the Russian would not let this golden opportunity to reach the quarterfinals slip easily. If Sharapova were to clinch the win, she is the favorite to progress to the second week which would then effectively seal her return to the Top 100. The former world number one and five-time Grand Slam champion might prove just too strong for the inconsistent Babos, and the win should not be much of a problem for the Russian.
Match Prediction: [WC] Maria Sharapova d. Timea Babos in three sets