Sharapova relishing latest shot at Stosur

Undaunted ahead of the first big test of her French Open title defence, Maria Sharapova welcomes the “untraditional” threat that Samantha Stosur poses at Roland Garros.

Boasting a 14-2 head-to-head record against Stosur, Sharapova was almost dismissive of the Australian’s prospects after confirming a showcourt appointment with the former finalist on Friday.

Even Stosur concedes she’ll have to raise her game further than the level that yielded a claycourt title in Strasbourg last week and then delivered the most one-sided victory of her French Open career, a 6-0 6-1 second-round dispatch of Frenchwoman Amandine Hesse.

While it troubles most others on the surface, Stosur’s deadly second-serve kicker slots beautifully into Sharapova’s backhand hitting zone and the Russian feasted on the delivery in a final-set bagel in last year’s 3-6 6-4 6-0 fourth-round meeting between the pair in Paris.

Not surprisingly, Sharapova said she was relishing the chance to play Australia’s last women’s singles hope once again.

“She has a very heavy ball and I think on clay specifically it just really penetrates through the court,” said the world No.2.

“The spin that she’s able to create from her forehand and her serve, she has one of the best kick serves in the game.

“She’s really able to put that power into it and kick.

“She slices a lot. There are a lot of untraditional things that she does, but I enjoy that challenge and I try to prepare for it as well as I can.”

Stosur is riding a seven-match claycourt winning streak and dropped only five games in blasting her way into the last 32 for the seventh successive year.

But the 26th seed acknowledged Sharapova, with just one defeat from 23 matches in the French capital in the past three years, was a whole different ball game.

“Playing Maria is always a big challenge for me,” Stosur said.

“No matter what surface it’s on, I don’t have a very good record at all.

“She’s one of the best competitors there is out there. She fights from the first point to the last point, doesn’t give much away and when her back’s against the wall she keeps swinging and going forward.”

To have any chance, the underdog said she’d have to “go at” Sharapova from the outset and not let up.

“I’ve got to be ready to have to play as well or maybe if not better than what I have been doing,” Stosur said.

“So it’s one of those matches that’s a tough match-up, but I know I’ve got the game that can trouble her and hopefully I can do it well and we will see what happens.”

If Stosur can conjure a first win over Sharapova since the 2012 WTA Championships in Istanbul, she’ll play either Czech 13th seed Lucie Safarova or 20th-seeded German Sabine Lisicki.

2-MARIA SHARAPOVA (RUS) leads 26-SAMANTHA STOSUR (AUS) 14-2 (4-0 on clay)


Age: 28

Ranking: 2

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US34,902,609 ($A44.33 million)

Career titles: 35

Grand slam titles: 5 (Australian Open 2008; French Open 2012, 2014; Wimbledon 2004; US Open 2006)

French Open win-loss record: 52-10

Best French Open performances: champion 2012, 2014


Age: 31

Ranking: 26

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US14,393,844 ($A18.28 million)

Career titles: 6

Grand slam titles: 1 (US Open 2011)

French Open win-loss record: 29-11

Best French Open performance: finalist 2010

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