Maria Sharapova made full use of her wildcard as she stormed to an excellent 7-5, 6-3 victory over Magda Linette in a high-quality second round match at the Tianjin Open, reaching her first WTA quarterfinal since the 2017 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. Sharapova took the victory in an hour and 40 minutes, and she has the golden opportunity to claim the first title of her comeback here in Tianjin.
Tight start to the match
Just like her previous match against Begu, Sharapova came into this match serving as she was looking in her vintage form on her serve. Linette, ironically coming into this match as the underdog despite higher-ranked, made a slow start as she sent three groundstrokes wide to gift Sharapova two break points in the second game. However, the Pole started to settle into the match and stepped up her gear, taking charge of the rallies with her powerful forehands to get the tight service hold.
Sharapova saves herself from trouble
Unexpectedly, it was Sharapova who struggled in the early stages as she started to misfire in her usually-consistent baseline game, allowing Linette to earn three break points in the third game. Fortunately for the Russian, she was able to find her first serves at the crucial moments and used her extremely-powerful backhands to fight back and get the narrow hold of service.
Sharapova takes the set at the eleventh hour
Neither of them was able to find the breakthrough on the return but it was Linette who kept coming close to a break especially after earning more break point opportunities in the seventh game. Two consecutive double-faults from the former world number one saw the world number 71 take advantage and threaten to take the lead, but Sharapova’s tough mentality was what got her through once more as she was able to remain on serve ultimately.
With the set looking like it was going to a tiebreak, Sharapova stepped up her game and played her best return game of the match, with the pressure inevitable getting to Linette, who had to serve to stay in the set. Coming up with some world-class aggressive play, the five-time Grand Slam eventually sealed the first set 7-5 after 50 minutes of play.
Linette takes the early lead but gets pegged back by Sharapova
Sharapova had to immediately dig deep in the opening game of the second set, coming back from the brink to save two break points with some clinical offensive play, taking the hard-fought hold of service. Unexpectedly, Linette stormed back to finally convert a break point and took the lead for the first time in the match, with the Russian sending a forehand long to gift Linette the early lead.
However, the Pole was unable to hold onto the lead as she lost a 30-0 lead in the subsequent lead and Sharapova broke straight back to level the scores. Although the current world number 86 looked extremely inconsistent on her serve with her first serve deserting her, she was still able to remain clutch at the nerviest moments, fending off a break point to hold for a 3-2 lead.
Sharapova hangs on and takes the win
From then on, Sharapova stormed ahead with the lead as she rode on her momentum, breaking serve consecutively and ultimately consolidated for a huge 5-2 lead, edging closer than ever to the win. However, Linette was determined to provide a tough fight as the dangerous Pole saved a match point to hold her serve and lessen the deficit, looking poised for the improbable comeback.
The improbable comeback, within a blink of an eye, suddenly looked possible when Linette earned a break point while Sharapova was serving for the match. Nonetheless, the Russian was able to save it with a powerful drive-volley winner and was fourth-time lucky when she converted her fourth match point in the match for the tough win in an hour and 51 minutes.