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Maria Sharapova vs Ekaterina Makarova WTA Brisbane tennis live: All-Russian clash in Brisbane

Hannah Wilks in News 4 Jan 2016
  • Maria Sharapova starts her Brisbane International title defense vs Ekaterina Makarova on Tuesday
  • Sharapova and Makarova are scheduled on court in Brisbane at 2pm local/4am GMT
  • Sharapova aims to maintain her perfect 6-0 record vs Makarova in Brisbane clash
Maria Sharapova (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images for Porsche)

Defending champion Maria Sharapova aims to maintain her perfect record against compatriot Ekaterina Makarova as they face off in the first round of the Brisbane International. 

Maria Sharapova begins her Brisbane International title defense against fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova on Tuesday.

The popular, Premier-level Brisbane International was the scene for Sharapova’s bright start to the 2015 season 12 months ago, as she defeated Ana Ivanovic in a three-set final to claim the title and went on to reach the final of the Australian Open, falling to Serena Williams in a hard-fought match.

Unfortunately for Sharapova, the rest of her season didn’t live up to that promising start. The five-time Grand Slam champion had to withdraw from the semifinals of Acapulco due to illness, and lost early in Indian Wells to Flavia Pennetta and Miami to Daria Gavrilova – suffering from injury during the latter defeat. Indeed, injury and illness were the keynotes of Sharapova’s 2015. Despite a semifinal finish in Madrid and a title at Rome’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Sharapova’s clay season disappointed as she failed to defend her Stuttgart and French Open titles, losing in the fourth round of the latter as she struggled with a flu-like illness. The Russian went on to reach the semifinals of Wimbledon for just the second time since 2006, but a right leg injury meant that her defeat to Williams in those semifinals was her last match until the Asian swing. Missing the US Open entirely, Sharapova attempted to come back in Wuhan but had to retire in her opening match.

WTA Brisbane 2016 live stream: How to watch and bet

The end of the season offered much hope for 2016, however. Despite her long absence from competition, Sharapova shone at the WTA Finals Singapore, going undefeated in the round-robin before losing to Petra Kvitova in the semifinals, and she scored two excellent wins over Karolina Pliskova and Kvitova in the Fed Cup final. She appeared to have used her time off to great effect, with her mastery of the drop shot continuing to grow and an increased willingness to use slice offensively, and although she may have slipped to world no. 4 and be seeded third at the Brisbane International behind Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza, a healthy Sharapova could and should be a force to be reckoned with this week.

In former top-10 player and two-time Grand Slam semifinalist Ekaterina Makarova, however, Sharapova certainly hasn’t got the easiest opponent to start her season against. Makarova rose as high as world no. 8 in the rankings after reaching the semifinals of the 2014 US Open and 2015 Australian Open (losing to Serena Williams at the former and Sharapova at the latter). But like Sharapova, Makarova struggled with injury for the remainder of the season and for form, with a semifinal appearance at Washington, D.C. and fourth-round finishes at the French and US Opens the only real highlights.

Makarova shut down her season after the US Open and did not feature in the Fed Cup final. Now ranked world no. 23 and with semifinal points to defend in Melbourne, the Russian needs some wins and fast but she doesn’t look likely to get them in Brisbane – she is 0-6 against Sharapova and has won just one set in those six meetings, which came back in their first meeting in Madrid in 2011. Three of those meetings have come on Australian hard courts, at the Australian Open in 2012, 2013 and 2015: Sharapova won those matches 6-2, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 and 6-3, 6-2.

Anything can happen when a player returns to action after the off-season and we often see some unusual results at the beginning of the season, but Sharapova should be well-rested and raring to go and it looks likely that the defending champion will come through smoothly to the second round in Brisbane. 

Sharapova and Makarova are scheduled on court in Brisbane at 2pm local/4am GMT

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Maria Sharapova vs Ekaterina Makarova WTA Brisbane tennis live: All-Russian clash in Brisbane

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