Jelena Ostapenko vs Maria Sharapova live streaming, preview and tips: French Open champions meet for the first time in the Italian Open quarterfinals

Hannah Wilks in WTA 17 May 2018
  • French Open champions Jelena Ostapenko and Maria Sharapova face off for a place in the semifinals at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia
  • Ostapenko vs Sharapova Internazionali BNL d'Italia tennis is live from Rome on Friday at 2.30pm local/1.30pm BST
  • Watch and bet on tennis live from Rome at bet365 > live streaming > tennis (geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify)
Maria Sharapova (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

On the eve of Roland Garros, French Open champions Jelena Ostapenko and Maria Sharapova face off for a place in the semifinals at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

Jelena Ostapenko vs Maria Sharapova Internazionali BNL d'Italia tennis is live from Rome on Friday at 2.30pm local/1.30pm BST (geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify). Watch and bet on tennis live from Rome at bet365 > live streaming > tennis

After winning three consecutive matches for just the third time in 2018, can Maria Sharapova get her first victory over a top-10 player since beating Simona Halep in the first round of the US Open back in 2017 as she takes on Jelena Ostapenko for a place in the Internazionali BNL d’Italia semifinals?

In recent years, clay has become the heartland of Sharapova’s success as she has captured all the biggest titles played on the surface – Stuttgart (three times), Madrid (once), Rome (three times) and Roland Garros (twice) – and it seems appropriate that it’s on clay that the Russian has began to turn around what was starting to look like a precipitous slide down the rankings.
After patchy results and being dogged by minor injuries on her return to competition in 2017, Sharapova began 2018 by making the semifinals of the Shenzhen Open and the third round of the Australian Open, but her 1-6, 3-6 defeat to Angelique Kerber there was the beginning of a four-match losing streak that carried her through Doha, Indian Wells and Stuttgart, where she was ousted in the first round by Caroline Garcia. But in Madrid last week, Sharapova played her best tennis for some time, beating Mihaela Buzarnescu, Irina-Camelia Begu and Kristina Mladenovic before losing in the quarterfinals to Kiki Bertens; and it’s an upwards trend that has definitely continued in Rome, where Sharapova has looked more and more like her old self on her way to the quarterfinals at the Foro Italico.

Said old self was not immune to getting her serve broken (a lot) and having to battle through tough matches, and those qualities have been on display in Sharapova’s first three matches in Rome: Both in the three-set battles she survived with Ashleigh Barty and Dominika Cibulkova, and in the ostensibly more straightforward 6-3, 6-4 victory she scored over Daria Gavrilova in Thursday’s round of 16. 

Gavrilova had beaten Sharapova before, and the diminutive but feisty Australian certainly gave a good account of herself despite having had to play past 2am the previous night in saving two match points to beat Garbine Muguruza in a thriller. She forced Sharapova to work for everything, testing the Russian not just from the baseline but forcing her to attack the net and play in the forecourt (not somewhere Sharapova traditionally flourishes). Sharapova rose to the challenge in great style, bounced back from being broken when serving from both sets, ended the match with more winners than unforced errors (no easy task against a player who defends as well as Gavrilova does) and, most significantly, her second-serve return was utterly, unfailingly lethal – something that will stand her in great stead against the erratic serve of Jelena Ostapenko.


Jelena Ostapenko  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Serve was the biggest barometer of the French Open champion’s fluctuating fortunes in her own three-set battle with Johanna Konta on Thursday. Ostapenko had lost both previous matches she’d played against Konta, although the two had never met on clay and Konta is having a poor season. Nevertheless, Konta took the first set 6-2 with crisp serving and careful, solid tennis behind it, while Ostapenko complained of dizziness to her coach (he responded that she should call the trainer if she was feeling that bad – she did not do so) and had a first-serve percentage in the thirties.

Ostapenko earned break point at the beginning of the second set and failed to convert, cracking her racquet on the court. It seemed to release something in the sixth seed and she promptly found a flurry of winners, including a crunching backhand down the line, to break for 3-1. She never really looked back from there, dragging her first-serve percentage up from the basement (although it never got out of the fifties), taking the second set to level the match and then taking an early 3-1 lead in the third, riding her surge of confidence and energy to rain down winners and give herself the advantage in the decider.

That surge did subside, and Konta battled hard down the stretch, giving herself the chance to get back on serve, but Ostapenko had done enough in the early stages of the decider to get the win, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

It’s Ostapenko’s fourth quarterfinal of the year, after St Petersburg and Stuttgart and the Miami Open, where she had her best result of the year with a run to the final that saw her score wins over Petra Kvitova and Elina Svitolina – and it comes just in time really, with the Latvian’s title defense at the French Open looming very, very close.

What to expect as these two Roland Garros champions face off for a place in the semifinals of the last big clay-court event before the French Open? It’s a mouthwatering prospect for sure, especially because the two have never played before – a clash between the veteran who has been at the top of women’s tennis for more than a decade, and who has made clay her own in recent years, looking to prove she’s not done after her suspension and that she can still win without the meldonium she took for so many years (which is now a prohibited substance); and the 20-year-old who is still feeling her way into the meat of her pro career, who in turn is looking to prove she’s not a one-Slam wonder but a legitimate, ongoing threat for the biggest titles.

I’m not at all sure that Sharapova doesn’t have the advantage here, and not just in terms of experience. Ostapenko’s serve, although she is working on it and there are signs that it is gradually improving, is both underwhelming and erratic, and it can and will leak double faults under the pressure of Sharapova’s laser-like returning, which is so lethal. Without being able to get on the front foot behind her serve, I think Ostapenko will struggle to play her best from the baseline, and even if she does, her heavy hitting runs the risk of kicking up into the taller Sharapova’s strike zone. Unless Ostapenko returns absolutely brilliantly to keep as consistent pressure on Sharapova’s serve as her own will be under, and pulls out some really heavy deliveries of her own, I think it will be the three-time Rome champion who comes through to the semifinals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia once more. 


Ostapenko vs Sharapova Internazionali BNL d’Italia tennis is live from Rome on Friday at 2.30pm local/1.30pm BST. Watch and bet on the match live at bet365 > live streaming > tennis > Jelena Ostapenko vs Maria Sharapova (geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify)


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Jelena Ostapenko vs Maria Sharapova live streaming, preview and tips: French Open champions meet for the first time in the Italian Open quarterfinals

Jelena Ostapenko vs Maria Sharapova live streaming, preview and tips for the WTA Rome Internazionali BNL d’Italia quarterfinal match on Friday 18 May 2018: Reigning Roland Garos champion Ostapenko must fend off three-time Rome champion Sharapova. We preview the match and show you how you can watch the match live and bet in-play.

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