Last year, Maria Sharapova vs Simona Halep in the Roland Garros final was voted best match in a Major (although I think it should have been Petra Kvitova vs Venus Williams at Wimbledon). At any rate, the Sharapova v Halep Roland Garros match kind of overshadowed what might have been the best match of that tournament prior to the final, Masha’s three set survival against Eugenie Bouchard in the semifinals. It was a tremendous effort by Sharapova after dropping the first set and being pushed to the brink in the second set. Masha won the third set handily (score 4-6 7-5 6-2) but make no mistake, Genie validated her run to last year’s Australian Open semis as no fluke, which she would further validate by reaching the Wimbledon final. What’s more, Bouchard showed she was not afraid of Sharapova and had the game to compete with her. Genie will get another crack at Masha after a tougher than expected 6-1 5-7 6-2 win over Irina-Camelia Begu. Genie was rolling along until kind of losing her way a little in the second set. But she finished in fine form. She will need to maintain a high level against Sharapova. Since being taken to two match points against her by Alexandra Panova, Masha has been razor sharp. She’s won her next two matches, giving up only 5 total games combined. The way she blew through the dangerous Peng Shuai 6-3 6-0 was very impressive. If there is a weakness that Genie can exploit, it’s Masha’s second serve. Bouchard is a very aggressive returner. If she can make Sharapova pay for missing first serves then she can pull the upset. Also, if she can make the former world #1 move, which is also not her strength, Genie can cause her problems. If Bouchard can’t do those things, it’s going to be tough to derail Masha.
Meanwhile, the player I hope wins it all (well, her or Madison Keys) kept rolling along. Simona Halep had a very tricky match-up with Yanina Wickmayer. Wickmayer is the kind of player that can unexpectedly jump up and bite a higher ranked player and pull an upset. But not on this day. Simona reached her second straight Australian Open quarterfinal with a 6-4 6-2 victory. If she can continue to serve the way she did against Yanina, Halepeno might just hold the trophy next weekend. On the other hand, she is going to get her biggest test of the tournament, maybe of her year to date, in #10 seed Ekaterina Makarova. In the past, Kate has upset Serena Williams in Melbourne so she won’t have any fear of Simona. Although Simona is the higher seed and leads 1-0 H2H, this is a pick ’em match.
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2 MARIA SHARAPOVA (won 6-3 6-0 vs 21 Peng Shuai)
3 SIMONA HALEP (won 6-4 6-2 vs Yanina Wickmayer)
7 EUGENIE BOUCHARD (won 6-1 5-7 6-2 vs Irina-Camelia Begu)
10 EKATERINA MAKAROVA (won 6-3 6-2 vs Julia Goerges)