Halep overcomes Sharapova
Simona Halep’s long wait for a first victory over Maria Sharapova is finally over
The Romanian, who has aspirations of becoming world No.1 for the first time next week, delivered a counter-punching clinic as she dismissed Sharapova 6-2 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals of the China Open in Beijing.
It was Halep’s first success over the five-time major winner in eight attempts and Daria Kasatkina will provide her with her next challenge. The Russian edged a lengthy scrap with Agnieszka Radwanska 4-6 7-5 6-2.
"It was a great match, I think I played my best tennis against her," said a delighted Halep after the match. "I served pretty well, and the work that I did after the US Open, I could see it on court today. I'm really happy that I could do this. It's my first victory against her and I just want to enjoy the memory."
The Romanian committed a miserly one unforced-error in the opening set as Sharapova continually struggled to punch through her defences. The Russian’s groundstrokes were often wayward but she refused to alter her approach and continued to press.
Halep was entirely comfortable absorbing pace from her assertive opponent and responding on the counter-attack. She won the first set for the loss of two games and looked at ease on National Stadium Court.
The second set followed a similar pattern to the first. Sharapova remained the aggressor but her unforced-error rate continued to rise and she failed to rile her composed rival.
There was a total of 39 mistakes from the Russian’s racket as she fell to her first straight sets defeat of the year. It was an afternoon to forget for the former world No.1, and she will hope for better moving forward.
Elsewhere at the China Open, Elina Svitolina cruised past the on-form Ashleigh Barty 6-4 6-2. Caroline Garcia’s hopes of reaching the WTA finals in Singapore are still alive after a 7-6(4) 6-4 triumph over Elise Mertens in the second round.
The Frenchwoman, who captured the fourth title of her career at the Wuhan Open last week, is now on a seven match unbeaten run.
Shuai Peng is also through to the last sixteen after overcoming Monica Niculescu and Jelena Ostapenko maintained her excellent form by powering past Sam Stosur 6-3 7-5.
At the ATP 500 event in Beijing, Grigor Dimitrov prevailed in an evenly-contested duel with Juan Martin del Potro. Last year's finalist was a 7-6(6) 7-5 winner and he has further boosted his London bid.
Nick Kyrgios took out Mischa Zverev 3-6 6-2 6-2 and Aljaz Bedene retired against Roberto Bautista Agut after conceding the first ten games. Steve Darcis is also through with a 6-3 6-4 success over Dusan Lajovic.
At the Tokyo Open, Ryan Harrison scored his biggest win of his season by defeating US Open finalist, Kevin Anderson, 6-3 1-6 7-6(2) to progress into the quarter-finals. Marin Cilic breezed past lowly ranked, Yasutaka Uchiyama, 6-3 6-4 and David Goffin, Diego Schwartzman, Alexandr Dolgopolov and Adrian Mannarino were all victorious in straight sets.