Defending champion Maria Sharapova continues her campaign for a third title at the BNP Paribas Open against unseeded qualifier Camila Giorgi, who has been making news for all the wrong reasons lately but has found a strong vein of form in the Californian desert.
Giorgi, an Italian talent whose attacking shotmaking belies her wispy appearance, has had to work extremely hard to get to this point in the tournament, winning two matches in qualifying before battling to a 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-3 win over the athletic Andrea Petkovic in the first round and a 7-6(3), 6-3 victory against 25-seeded Sorana Cirstea in the second.
Sharapova, meanwhile, who shared a first-round bye with the other 31 top seeds, has had to win one match to get to this point in the tournament, an impressive 6-1, 6-4 defeat of the dangerous Julia Goerges which lasted just 66 minutes.
‘The first matches are always a little bit tricky, especially having not played in a few weeks indoor or outdoor,’ Sharapova said.
‘Tricky opponent, and she's capable of playing good tennis. She hasn't been as consistent as she probably would have liked recently, but she's had her results. I thought I did what I had to do.’
The Russian double-faulted seven times – her perennial bugbear – but didn’t face a break point against the talented but inconsistent German.
Camila Giorgi (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)
‘Talented but inconsistent’ is probably a fair description of Giorgi too. 22 and ranked 79, Giorgi had won just one main draw match in 2014 coming into this tournament (she picked up two wins, one over Petkovic, in qualifying for Dubai) over world no. 219 Storm Sanders at the Australian Open. The flat-hitting Giorgi raised eyebrows when she reached the round of 16 at the US Open in 2013 as a qualifier, defeating Caroline Wozniacki on the way before losing to Roberta Vinci, but her financial affairs have been generating more headlines than her tennis of late after the probity of her camp was placed into question before the Australian Open.
No doubt Giorgi would like to get back to making headlines for all the right reasons, but while Petkovic and Cirstea – the players she has faced at Indian Wells so far – are both very good players, in Sharapova she has an opponent who is unlikely to give her the kind of unforced errors which both Petkovic and Cirstea generate as a matter of course. Moreover, Sharapova is rested and hungry for wins after skipping everything after Paris – where she reached the semifinals – to fulfill broadcast commitments at the Winter Olympics in Sochi and, while her 2014 season has been up and down as she recovers from a lay-off to rest her shoulder injury, she looked in excellent form in her first round match.
With nothing to lose, Giorgi may be able to mount a challenge, but one would expect the defending champion to come through in straight sets.
Sharapova and Giorgi are scheduled on Stadium 1 at 2pm (9pm GMT)