It was a tricky match, but Maria Sharapova prevailed against the dangerous world number 66 Zarina Diyas in the quarterfinals of the 2018 Shenzhen Open, triumphing with a 6-3, 6-3 scoreline after an hour and 31-minutes of play.
Firing 24 winners to 22 unforced errors, Sharapova stormed her way to the confidence-boosting victory over a tough opponent to capture her ticket in the semifinals, and therefore with this victory, she sealed her return to the top-50 for the first time since her suspension. She will next face defending champion Katerina Siniakova in the last four.
Sharapova grabs the first set
One visible improvement in Sharapova’s game would be her serving — attempting to go for less-risky second serves and her high first-serve percentage allowed the Russian to excel on serve. Sealing the opening game with an ace, Sharapova had the perfect start to the match while Diyas struggled to find her feet, conceding break point next up. Nonetheless, the Kazakhstani was just too good on her serve, leaving the former world number one with no answers.
Tricky games on Sharapova’s serve followed though she managed to escape from the brink with some clutch serving and precise forehands, leaving Diyas helpless at the sight of consecutive winners go by her. The world number 66 had the golden opportunity to take the lead, but Sharapova sent in a nerveless ace down-the-tee to fend off the sole break point.
It was another marathon game, but this time with Diyas serving. Sharapova’s break-point fiasco continued to haunt her, missing another four break points before a merciless forehand return finally gifted the Russian a 4-2 lead.
Terrific baseline work done by both players brought a high-quality affair for the fans to enjoy, though Sharapova’s fans would have to break a sweat since the five-time Grand Slam champion was too erratic, allowing Diyas to find a loophole and earn her chances. However, Sharapova stood firm on the crucial points, converting on her second set point to seal the first set 6-3 after 51 minutes.
Sharapova takes the win
Diyas overcame the disappointment of losing the first set and grabbed a confidence-boosting service hold in the opening game of the second set as she was simply clinical on her first-serve points, but her inability to handle the pace of Sharapova’s shots ultimately saw her going down an early break. However, consecutive errors on her backhands gave Diyas a way back into the match, and a comeback looked plausible after the Kazakhstani had all the momentum while being 3-2 up.
Unexpectedly, Diyas totally lost the plot while having game points in the seventh game. Sharapova’s powerful returns made some noise, and she finally regained her lead, together with an opportunity to close out the match. Serving to stay in the encounter, Diyas’ struggles on her second serves continued to bother her, and it was her eventual downfall as Sharapova sealed the excellent win with a big forehand winner on match point.