Stuttgart R1 preview and prediction: Vinci vs. Sharapova

The comeback is beginning.

Maria Sharapova will play her first match since the 2016 Australian Open when she goes up against Roberta Vinci in round one of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix on Wednesday in Stuttgart. Sharapova has been suspended for 15 months (reduced from two years) after testing positive for meldonium last January.

The 30-year-old Russian is 2-0 lifetime against Vinci and 4-0 in total sets, with set scores of 6-0, 6-1, 6-1, and 6-2. However, each of those meetings came on a hard court (2007 U.S. Open and 2012 Indian Wells).

Fast forward to 2017 and Sharapova is obviously unranked, whereas Vinci still registers at a solid 36th in the world at 34 years old. The Italian is now a Grand Slam runner-up (2015 U.S. Open) to go along with her 10 career titles (six on clay).

“I don’t agree about the wild card here and about the wild card in Rome and the other tournaments,” Vinci commented, echoing the Sharapova-related sentiments of many other players on the WTA Tour. “I don’t have anything against her. She made her mistakes, for sure, but she paid and I think she can return to play…but without any wild cards.”

“That is the least of my concerns,” Sharapova said of recent criticism. “I haven’t wasted a single thought on it. I know that I am respected in my field. I see it in how my opponents play against me.”

Sharapova’s main concern, of course, has to be on her own game. Rust will obviously be an issue, and facing Vinci on clay is not exactly the easiest of comeback matches. Both players will undoubtedly show some nerves in this one, so it could be an roller-coaster affair of less than top-notch quality. In the end, Vinci will likely be too tough on this surface.

Pick: Vinci in 3

28 Comments on Stuttgart R1 preview and prediction: Vinci vs. Sharapova

  1. I’m not a Sharapova fan at all. But Vinci has been terrible this year and I think Maria will win. But I hope Roberta gets fired up and slices and dices her.

    But YEAH…Its a WTA poll!!! thanks Ricky.

  2. I am glad that Maria is finally back. I don’t know that she can win this match. I am sure she will be rusty.

    I don’t love the shrieking st all. Azarenka is another one who does it. But I do respect Maria’s game and the way she fights so hard in her matches. I do think it will take time for her to get back into good form.

  3. Roberta has only won 6 of 9 matches this year and her ranking is in a nose-dive. I’d be surprised if she can beat a rusty Sharapova. Unfortunately, then Sharapova as dear Aga Radwanska or Makarova. So my hope is that at least Kerber can stop the Shriek.

  4. Nny,

    Azarenka howls even when she practices. I don’t mind her howl that much. But Sharapova doesn’t need her shriek when practicing — she saves he screams for match play. I can’t stand to watch her gamesmanship or listen to her.

    • rc,

      I think both Maria and Vika are equally guilty in matches. I don’t think you can differentiate because shrieking is shrieking.

      I don’t like Maria’s shrieking and think it is gamesmanship. I also don’t think she needs it and should rely on her game.

      I could care less if Maria turns her back on opponents. I am not going to pick apart her routines. All players have them.

      I know people don’t like her and that’s fine. I simply respect her game and what she’s done and how she competes and fights. We all have our own opinions.

      • NNY,

        Odd but I feel exactly the same way about Sharapova as you do. Admire her for her toughness on court – coming back from that shoulder injury the way she did was awesome. No one had ever done that. Her big serve was vital to her game, too. Off court, not so much, no.

        I didn’t mind her shrieking as much as I did Azarenka’s, which I found intolerable. Pity because aside from that I quite liked her. I can’t watch tennis without sound (btw I’d LOVE an option to just mute the commentary) so I gave up on watching her matches at all.

        • Sorry Nny,

          My ears are sensitive and I do differentiate when it comes to grunts — both ATP and WTA grunts.

          Granollers grunt is bad but it’s not the steady heaving and vomiting sound like Berlocq makes. And I judge whether or not a player uses the grunt consistently in practice and in match play. If they don’t grunt in practice, they don’t HAVE to grunt in match play.

          Some grunts are more natural and genuine than others and less obtrusive to the game. I find Vika’s howl easier to take (not that I like it) than the purposeful, tactical death scream that Maria gives.

          And it distracts from my ability to enjoy Maria’s and Berlocq’s matches more than Vika’s howl and Granollers nervous grunt that he sometimes uses and sometimes not. If they don’t have to grunt on every shot, it’s an improvement as well.

          I think it has to do with the decibels in Maria’s case.

          Add to the tactical screeching, she’s a snob, a b**** in her lockeroom attitude. So…we won’t be finding a middle ground on Sharapova, that’s for sure 😉

          And watching tennis with the sound off for me is not an option. I want to hear the sounds of tennis: ball, racquet, sneakers…

        • Ramara,

          Thanks for your comment. I was beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed here. I appreciate you bringing up her recovery from that shoulder injury. It was a long road back.

          I said my piece about Azarenka. I don’t care if she shrieks in practice too. If you do it in matches, it’s a problem as far as I am concerned. Hers is just as ear piercing and annoying as Maria’s. I don’t hear any difference.

          I also don’t think there is anything wrong with Maria turning her back on players between points or serves. I have seen other players do that, too. I think it’s just a player’s way of getting composed and keeping focused. I don’t know Maria, do I can’t say if she’s a snob or a b***h. I don’t like to invest too much energy in disliking any player. It’s not worth it.

          I will never be okay with shrieking, but I stand by what I said about respecting Maria’s achievements in this sport, her comeback from the shoulder injury and her fighting spirit. For that matter, I also respect Azarenka for her achievements as well.

        • I don’t think it is true that if you don’t shriek in practice then shrieking in a match is gamesmanship. In a match, you are in a different emotional state. Does Muzz practice in the same way as he plays matches?

  5. Completely agree, the screams seem to get louder and louder trying to put her opponents off, also turning her back and keeping them waiting, and her snotty attitude towards the other players, not to mention a diabetic selling sweets loaded with chemicals to impressionable young kids, under the pretence of it been for her foundation, im no Serena fan but i enjoy watching her getting her backside kicked, each and everytime they face each other ….

    • Hi Alison

      Yep, I remember we are on the same page when it comes to Sharapova. Totally didn’t miss her while she was gone. Enjoyed watching Serena bring her down a peg. Cheers, dear Ali. The other one I don’t like is Coco Vandeweghe.

      • Agree with both of you. What I respect in her is her mental toughness. But that’s it. And if you ask me, she should play smaller tournaments and earn a place in a major event. It’s not like 39 y.o Serena is given a wild card. The reason behind does matter.

  6. I am sure lots of players are taking legal peds. Maybe some are even taking those on the banned list as ITF tests are at least one step behind. Just because the athletes have not been found out, doesn’t make them virtuous. And many of those who are protesting the loudest are probably dopers and in any case are whining only to protect their own interests and not out of a sense of justice. When Monica Seles was returning after being stabbed, many voted against protecting her ranking! The players just need some excuse to prevent returning players from threatening the cozy situation they had in the star player’s absence.
    So if tournaments want to give WC to Sharpie as a commercial decision, let them.

  7. I am not a Maria fan. That being said, I watched part of the Roland Garros rewind and I had not missed the shrieking. And whether she plays a set and a half because someone retired or 3 sets, it’s going to take a minimum of 2 hours. She’s so dang slow. It’s like watching paint dry.
    I am one who believes she should have started at the bottom, but the game seems to be about money . I find that sad. I’m hoping Roberta wins tomorrow.

    • Sad that the game’s about money? Of course it is. You think tournaments don’t cost money to run? It is a bit sad that it takes stars to fill seats but that’s the way sports is. All sports, not just tennis. If you disapprove go watch some challenger tournaments. You’ll see some good tennis and maybe even some future stars. And they can really use the money.

  8. From one former ShriekaDopa fan…

    No, come on, Genie, tell us how you really feel.

    “I don’t think a cheater in any sport should be allowed to play that sport again,” Bouchard said.

    Many WTA players have come out and said that Maria Sharapova doesn’t deserve to receive wild cards following her 15-month suspension for testing positive for meldonium.

    Eugenie Bouchard has taken it a step further: She doesn’t believe that the five-time Grand Slam champion should be allowed to play—period.

    “I don’t think that’s right,” the Canadian told TRT World when asked about the Russian receiving wild cards. “She’s a cheater, and I don’t think a cheater in any sport should be allowed to play that sport again. It’s so unfair to all the other players who do it the right way, and are true. I think from the WTA it sends the wrong message to young kids: Cheat, and we’ll welcome you back with open arms.

    “I don’t think that’s right, and [she’s] definitely not someone I can say I look up to anymore because it’s definitely ruined it for me a little bit.”


  9. The WTA is not in a good place right now and all this whining about Sharapova’s return isn’t making them look any better. Not that I’m happy about all the coverage is giving her either.

    • Ramara,

      I agree with you. I think the comments from Genie Bouchard were way too harsh. People deserve a second chance. Maria was suspended. She didn’t just walk away scot free.

      I think it takes more innate decency to forgive someone who makes a mistake or does something wrong. No one in this life is perfect, including Genie Bouchard.

      I also agree about the excessive coverage. The tennis channel was going on about Maria coming back and it was too much. She’s back playing again, but the focus should be also in other players.

      • Agree Nny!Genie sure needs to learn a little bit more about life.. “you make mistake then you should get punished and no forgiveness for you”,that’s her motto..then i’m very very glad she’s just a tennis player and not someone very powerful in this world!Otherwise…Brrrr!!

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