SHENZHEN, China -- Former World No.1 Maria Sharapova of Russia, the No.5 seed, entered the quarterfinals of the Shenzhen Open on Wednesday after moving past the impressive Chinese teenager Wang Xinyu, 6-7(4), 5-2, ret.
17-year-old Wang, a prodigious talent who won two junior Grand Slam titles in doubles last year, received a wild card into the event, and used it to power to a stunning first-set win over the five-time Grand Slam champion, before cramping forced her to retire during the second set after one hour and 47 minutes of play.
"Obviously, it’s a tough situation," Sharapova told the press corps, following the match. "It’s not the way either of us wants to finish the match, win or lose. I thought [Wang] 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 getting a little bit closer to the line and being more aggressive."
"She has all the tools to play well, and I think she showcased that, and it’s obviously a very unfortunate way to end the match," Sharapova continued.
The Chinese youngster made her mark on the match quickly. She dismissed a break point against her in the first game before drawing first blood with a break of the Sharapova serve at 2-1, after the Russian fired a forehand wide on break point.
— WTA (@WTA) January 2, 2019
Wang continued to match Sharapova power for power as the set progressed, and earned a chance to serve for the set at 5-4. The teenager held four set points in total during that game, but Sharapova amped up her returns to stay alive. After the fourth deuce of the game, Wang hit back-to-back double faults to allow Sharapova to level the set at 5-5.
After over an hour of play, the combatants finally moved into a tiebreak, where only one of the 11 points went to the server. A plethora of Wang forehand winners gave the teenager the 3-1 lead, with that point in particular being the one that went with serve.
Another rally forehand winner that clipped the netcord set Wang up with a imposing 5-2 lead. Wang dropped the next two points, the second with a double fault, to put the tiebreak back on serve. However, Sharapova followed by dropping her next service points, with a double fault and a forehand miscue respectively, to wrap up the tiebreak in favor of Wang.
It took a whopping 73 minutes before Wang attained her one-set lead, and while Sharapova had 12 winners to Wang's 10 in the opening frame, the Russian also had six more unforced errors than Wang, which cost her in the latter stages of the set.
— WTA (@WTA) January 2, 2019
Wang quickly jumped to a lead in the second set as well, breaking Sharapova in the opening game by forcing an error with a stunning backhand service return, and holding for 2-0 courtesy of a cheeky dropshot. But Sharapova used her mental fortitude to claim the break back at 2-2, and after the Russian held for 3-2, Wang took a medical timeout, as she started to fall into physical distress.
Following the resumption of play, the teenager fell to the ground during the first point, as her cramps continued to cause her pain. After attempting one more point, she immediately returned to her chair alongside the trainers, thereby forfeiting two games and putting Sharapova up 5-2. At that juncture, the Chinese player determined she was unable to continue, and Sharapova moved into the final eight.
After the retirement, Sharapova chatted with Wang while the teenager recovered and hydrated in her chair. "I said [to her] that being healthy is the most important thing, but if she continues to play the way that she did today, I think she has all the right tools to be a champion," Sharapova stated.
Sharapova will face either top seed Aryna Sabalenka or fellow Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova in the Shenzhen quarterfinals.