Don’t sleep on Buzarnescu
Winner of 16 of her last 18 matches in 2017, she managed to be one of the form players of the latter part of the tennis season. What was most impressive about those 16 victories were that 15 of those were in straight sets. All in all however, she was favoured to win in most matches, so she did what she was supposed to across the time period. Her losses were to Zhang and Bencic, where she fell away after losing tight first sets, possibly due to the fatigue factor of such a match-heavy schedule. The lefty has the power to counter-punch and put Sharapova onto the back foot at times during this match, so it will be interesting to see how she shapes up.
Maria Sharapova needs to prove herself a little bit more in her comeback before I can comfortably look at backing her in any capacity. Yes she won the Tianjin tournament, but it was one of the softer draws of late 2017. She found herself down 1-4 in set 1 and 1-5 in set 2 against Sabalenka in the final, and only benefited from nerves from Sabalenka more than anything else. Long story short, she just hasn’t quite recaptured that pre-ban form yet, and I am pretty comfortable opposing her against an in-form player to start the 2018 season.
Ultimately I think a really telling area that will be the main key to the match is how both players attack their opponent’s second serve. No doubt Sharapova’s movement has improved since returning from her drugs ban, but I still think her second serve is very vulnerable here.
I think the late-2017 play of Buzarnescu, coupled with the expectation that Sharapova will just turn up and deliver match one of the year, justifies a half/half play on both Buzarnescu and the over 20.5 match games here. I don’t think Sharapova will get everything her own way today, and a few more tennis watchers will take note of just what Buzarnescu is capable of on the tennis court.
2.5 units Buzarnescu to defeat Sharapova at $3.65 at Unibet
2.5 units total games over 20.5 games at $2.06 at Pinnacle