To come back from an injury is difficult enough. Coming back from a 15-month layoff? We would see how it affect Maria Sharapova’s game on Wednesday evening as she would make her return to professional tennis after her controversial suspension due to violating the anti-doping rules as she took a banned substance named Meldonium.
Enough of the topic of the suspension as this article would focus on Sharapova’s first tournament back after her lengthy absence from the court. Especially with Serena Williams’ pregnancy which would force her to be out of action only until 2018, this could well be Sharapova’s year if she can quickly adapt to the fast pace of women’s tennis as soon as possible. However, taking a look at her draw in Stuttgart, her path back to glory might be even more challenging with tough draws coming to her as an unseeded player.
First Round: Roberta Vinci
Maria Sharapova would play her first match back from her suspension against the dangerous floater Roberta Vinci, the 2015 US Open finalist. Vinci, despite her playing style being crafty and full of slices, stated that clay is not her most preferred surface as she reached the second week of the French Open only once in her whole career with a massive amount of eight first round exits there. However, the Italian had won five titles on clay in her career, proving that she can excel on clay too.
Sharapova’s head to head record against Vinci stands at a one-sided 2-0 score, with the Italian winning just a total of four games in these two matches combined. From previous meetings (both on hard), Vinci generally does not pose a huge problem against Sharapova, but it might all be different on Wednesday evening as the head to head record will not play a part in the match since Sharapova’s level of play would be unpredictable.
Second Round: Ekaterina Makarova or Agnieszka Radwanska
Returning to Stuttgart as a three-time former champion, Sharapova would know that the depth of the field in this tournament is really amazing since the cut-off ranking is usually lingering around the 30s. If (This would be a very big “If”) Sharapova manages to get past Vinci in the first round, the Russian would play either fellow countrywoman Ekaterina Makarova and a familiar foe in Agnieszka Radwanska, who has just recently spoken about how Sharapova should not receive a wildcard into the French Open. The Pole has a similar style of play as compared to Vinci, which would be beneficial to Sharapova as she would be able to overpower her world-class defense, as seen in their 13-2 head to head record.
If Makarova creates the upset to set up an all-Russian meeting, Sharapova should also get past that match considering the former world number eight has never beaten the most successful Russian female athlete in her career. Nevertheless, this would still be a very tough match-up for Sharapova, who will be only able to receive her credential and enter the tournament site on Wednesday.
1R: Roberta Vinci
2R: Ekaterina Makarova / Agnieszka Radwanska
QF: Dominika Cibulkova / Ana Konjuh
SF: Angelique Kerber / Garbine Muguruza
F: Karolina Pliskova / Simona Halep
It is definitely too early to list out the possible path to the title for Sharapova right now as all of us does not know her level of play right now, but the Russian had a wonderful comeback in 2010 when she returned from a career-threatening shoulder injury, ending the year as number 14 in the rankings despite being ranked 126 in May. Everyone would definitely watch the match between Sharapova and Vinci on Wednesday, looking to see how the former world number one will rebound from the unfortunate incident.