SHENZHEN, January 2, 2019
Top seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus has marched into the quarterfinals of the Shenzhen Open for the second year running with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova in 74 minutes on Centre Court.
The world No. 13 had her serve broken early in the third game of the match but came back strongly to break her opponent in the fourth and eight games to take a one set lead. The 182cm Belarusian, who reached a career high of No.11 in October last year after capturing the second title of her career and of the year at Wuhan, converted three more breaks in the second set to move into the final eight.
She will meet fifth seed Maria Sharapova, to whom she lost in the Tianjin ’17 finals in their only previous encounter on tour.
“I’m so happy with this victory and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s match. It should be an interesting match (against Sharapova). I lost to her in Tianjin and I was leading there in both sets. I’m going to think about tomorrow’s match and hopefully I will do better than last time,” said the 20-year-old.
It was heartbreak for teenage Chinese wild card Wang Xinyu, who was forced to retire from her second round match with Russian ace Maria Sharapova after putting on a devastating showcase of aggressive tennis to take a one set lead. The score stood at 6-7(4), 5-2 after one hour and 45 minutes.
The six foot tall hard-hitting 17-year-old started off strongly, outclassing her illustrious opponent with powerful forehand winners down the line and notching the opening break of the first set in the fourth game, much to the appreciation of a raucous local crowd.
Sharapova saved four set points in the ninth game of the first set, before getting the break she needed when Wang double-faulted twice in succession. The duo exchanged four mini-breaks each in the first nine points of the tie-break before Sharapova double-faulted to gift Wang a set point and then hit a forehand return out to relinquish the set.
The teenage Wang once again started aggressively in the second set, breaking her 31-year-old opponent in the first game, but the Russian retaliated with a break on her own in the fourth to level matters.
Disaster struck early in the sixth game, when Wang called for a medical timeout to have her left thigh attended to for cramping. She bravely attempted to continue with her leg tightly wrapped, but after serving for the second point of the game, she collapsed to the floor when she tried to reach for Sharapova’s return.
Wang received a two game penalty for interrupting the match and for calling a second medical timeout, and when it became clear the match was over, the former world No.1 Sharapova rushed to comfort the youngster who was in tears on her bench.
“It’s not a way that either of us wants to finish the match. I thought she was absolutely the dominant player in this match, and had all the opportunities to win it even though I felt like I was finding my stride and I was getting a little bit closer to the line and being a little bit more aggressive. I told her that being healthy is the most important thing and if she continues to play the way that she did today, I think she has all the right tools to be a champion,” said Sharapova.
In a match between two 24-year-old players at career high rankings, China’s Wang Yafan rallied from a set down to defeat Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 in two hours and three minutes on Centre Court.
In a passionately contested encounter, Wang saved an impressive 75% of the 16 break points she faced, include five of six in the third set, while converting four out of the eight she created to make her first quarterfinal in four appearances at Shenzhen.
“I am so happy I won this match. After I lost the first set, I started to change something in the second set and I feel like I played better after that,” said the Nanjing native, who is currently ranked at No.70 and has targeted to at least break the Top 50 this year.
In a rain interrupted closing match on Centre Court, Romanian qualifier Monica Niculescu made her first quarterfinal here in Shenzhen since 2014 after she fought back from a set down to overcome the Czech Republic’s Kristyna Pliskova 6-7(2), 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 24 minutes.