ROME, Italy - Maria Sharapova booked an exciting quarterfinal clash with reigning French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Daria Gavrilova at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia.
"I just like the way that I'm competing," she said after the match. "I like the way that I feel out there. I think that's really important, you know. It's an inner feeling, sometimes maybe not something you can put into words. But I just like the attitude with which I am playing with."
A three-time champion in Rome, Sharapova was aiming to reach her first Premier 5 quarterfinal since winning the title in 2015, but first had to get past a young Aussie whom she hadn't played since that very tournament.
— WTA (@WTA) May 17, 2018
Gavrilova saved two match points to outlast former French Open winner Garbiñe Muguruza well into the early morning hours of the previous night, and did all she could to bring that same intensity to Next Gen Arena on Thursday.
"I guess in those moments, those situations, you kind of have to really focus on yourself. I also played back-to-back matches and have to focus on the recovery aspect of my body and see where I can take it in the next day.
"But you also realize that she has had a long, deep match, went into the early hours of the night.
"I think this is one of the challenges of this back-to-back Madrid/Rome tournament. There's so many matches, so many rounds, big draws, and those are just the circumstances that you come to."
Trailing 1-5 in the opening set, she saved three set points to peg Sharapova back by a break, but the Russian broke right back to reclaim momentum.
The second set featured seven service breaks as the former No.1's return was on full display, winning all nine of Gavrilova's second serve points to ultimately secure victory on her third match point after one hour and 38 minutes on court.
Striking 38 winners to 32 unforced errors and converting seven of 15 break point opportunities, Sharapova tentatively rises to within striking distance of a seeding at Roland Garros.
"It's a step in the right direction. You know, it's obviously a goal is to be seeded at events. I don't think that takes away matches. You still have to be ready for tough first rounds and later rounds and whatever comes your way."
She next faces Ostapenko in what will be their first meeting. Ostapenko fought past British No.1 Johanna Konta in three sets earlier in the day to reach her first quarterfinal in Rome.
"I've seen quite a bit. I mean, obviously she's been going deep into tournaments and has helped set up some really great matches for herself in the past year specifically, and especially on this surface. You know, there's something that really comes out from her on this surface, which she's able to do really well.
"We've never faced against each other before, and, yeah, I'm looking forward to it."