The Worlds Favourite Playground

Monday, Oct 25th

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2004 Wimbledon Champion Maria Sharapova was bundled out of the second round of the Championships in straight sets 6-3, 6-4 by Portuguese qualifier Michelle Larcher De Brito in a shock of epic proportions.

The 20 year old unheralded Portuguese, a pint sized competitor at just 5 feet 5 inches tall, out screamed Sharapova and out hit the Russian rather comfortably over the course of the contest.

The opening set lasted barely over half an hour with Sharapova also facing the curse of the falling seeds as she slipped twice in the first set. Things got ever worse for the former world no.1 as she fell badly in the second set and appeared to pick up an injury, but it was her pride that appeared more shaken as Larcher De Brito continued to out play the Russian diva.

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If the men’s draw is more open than in most years the women’s draw has only one clear favourite looming large over the rest of the players – Serena Williams.

The American is in the best form of her career and her success and focus is only matched by the time she won 4 straight Slams in 2002-03. Last year, this was the Slam that renewed her dominance in women's tennis as she rode to victory on the back of a record 102 aces to claim her 5th Wimbledon title. The tennis betting odds suggest that she is a cinch to go all the way once again this year.

Far behind her are rivals Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova, the 2nd and 3rd seeds, respectively. Azarenka is more of a threat to Williams’ dominance seeing that she has already beaten the world no.1 in Doha this year and came close to her first U.S Open title when she led the American 5-3 in the final set in 2012. Sharapova meanwhile has been crushed and put aside at every opportunity.

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Defending champion Maria Sharapova threw everything she had at world no.1 Serena Williams, hoping that something would stick, but the top seed was just too good for her, as she record her first French Open title triumph after having gone 11 years of failing to get beyond the semi-finals, in two extremely close and tight sets 6-4, 6-4.

Sharapova’s dismal record against Serena Williams, in which she has failed to win a match against the American since 2004 made all tennis fans fear the same outcome , prior to the contest. Would the 2013 French Open final end in an anti-climax with Serena Williams bouncing her Russian opponent out like she had done in the past?

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maria_sharapova_7In the first of the two women's semi-finals, defending champion Maria Sharapova took on first time French Open semi-finalist Victoria Azarenka. The Azarenka-Sharapova rivalry is one of the more competitive and hard fought ones in women’s tennis over the past couple of years. 2012 was the breakout year in this rivalry and the two ladies have met 6 times since. Azarenka got the better of her Russian opponent 4 of those times to improve the career head to head to 7-5 in her favour.

Coming in to this year’s edition of the French Open, the odds were more or less evenly split with the slight edge going to Sharapova as a result of her improved clay court game and 2012 win at the French Open.

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Eugenie Bouchard won the first Grand Slam main draw match of her career on Monday at Roland Garros, defeating world no. 59 Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria 6-1, 7-6 (2) to advance to the second round.

Bouchard played solid tennis last week en route to reaching the semifinals in Strasbourg and carried that momentum into Paris, knocking out Pironkova, a former Wimbledon semifinalist in 78 minutes.

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Who can stop Serena Williams from capturing her second French Open crown is the question on everyone’s lips when it comes to the women’s draw. Such is the American’s dominance over her major rivals that her relative lack of success at this particular major underlined by a shocking first round exit last year, is largely being ignored. So can Sharapova defend her crown or can Azarenka overcome her pitfalls on the clay? Or will a darkhorse in the form of Kvitova, Li Na or Stosur come through for a fairytale finish? Let’s examine these scenarios by digging deep into the draw using that well known approach - bracketology

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In a rematch of the 2013 Miami Masters final, the top two women in the world faced off against each other for the crown of Madrid champion. There was a lot more than just a title at stake as Maria Sharapova faced off against top seed and defending champion Serena Williams with the world no.1 ranking up for grabs.

With the no. 2 seed managing to get her ‘first set’ off the American in all almost 5 years at the Sony Open, things were looking up and perhaps, there was a sense that Sharapova could reverse a very lopsided 2-12 head to head record against the legendary American. Since her devastating shoulder injury the world no.2 has returned as a very competent clay court player and had her best chance to beat Serena on the red clay of Madrid, a surface on which she boasted of a 25 match winning streak, running back to last year’s French Open.

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