In a blockbuster third round clash, France’s world #6 Caroline Garcia takes on five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova for a place in the quarterfinals in Montreal. It hasn’t been quite the season Garcia was hoping for after an excellent 2017, but she has often played her best tennis in the second half of the year and will be hoping to do the same again. But Sharapova has been in good form of late and has the quality and experience to trouble anyone. Who will come out on top?
Garcia and Sharapova have met five times so far and the Russian has had the better of it, winning four. That included a 3-6 6-4 6-0 comeback victory in their first match in the second round at Roland Garros in 2011. She backed that up with a 6-3 6-2 win in Doha in 2013 and an even more dominant 6-3 6-0 win in Brisbane a year later. Sharapova then scored her fourth straight win with a 6-2 4-6 7-5 win in Madrid in 2015. But Garcia had her revenge in Stuttgart this year, beating Sharapova 3-6 7-6 6-4.
Path to the third round
Garcia, seeded sixth, received a first-round bye in Montreal and thus took to the court for the first time against Magdalena Rybarikova in the round of 32. Rybarikova, a Wimbledon semifinalist last year, hasn’t quite managed to such impressive results this year, but she has had some good results and provided Garcia with a stern test. But it was one the Frenchwoman managed to pass, just, as she rallied past Rybarikova 4-6 6-1 6-3 to reach the third round.
Sharapova, without the benefit of a seeding, began her campaign against Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria. Karatantcheva shocked the world by reaching the French Open quarterfinals as a teenager in 2005 but has failed to replicate that success and proved no match for Sharapova who won 6-1 6-2. That set up a clash with 12th seed Daria Kasatkina and Sharapova delivered an even more impressive performance to brush aside the Wimbledon quarterfinalist 6-0 6-2.
How do they match up?
Both Garcia and Sharapova are at their best when playing aggressive tennis from the baseline. The world #6 can call upon plenty of power from both her forehand and backhand, although she favours the former. Her serve is also generally effective if not one of the best on Tour. Perhaps her most valuable asset, however, is her comfort in the forecourt and she would do well to try to shorten points by attacking the net against Sharapova.
For the Russian has been devastating from the baseline so far this week. Whilst few would have given Karatantcheva much chance, her demolition of Kasatkina was frightening. Her forehand and backhand were firing and she cut the 12th seed to pieces with them. That being said, Kasatkina was too passive for much of that match, inviting Sharapova to attack, a mistake the more aggressively-minded Garcia is unlikely to make.
Sharapova has found herself with an extremely tough draw in Montreal, but she has thus far made light work of her opponents and must now be accounted amongst the favourites for the title. And based on her shaky performance against Rybarikova it's hard to see Garcia being the one to stop her. Sharapova looked as confident as she ever has against Kasatkina, and if she can find anything like that level she will have too much for Garcia. Sharapova in three.