BEIJING, China - No.2 seed Simona Halep became the first player through to the quarterfinals at the China Open on Wednesday, scoring her first-ever win against Maria Sharapova in emphatic fashion, 6-2, 6-2.
Though Halep and Sharapova went the distance in four of their previous seven matches, the Romanian was never able to get a win in the head-to-head until the two met in the third round.
"It was a great match, I think I played my best tennis against her," Halep told WTA Insider 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 momeny."
After having not played for nearly two years, the pair have now split two meetings in six weeks, with Halep avenging a first-round defeat at the US Open.
As it happened: Halep strolls past Sharapova at China Open
Halep broke the Russian's spell over her with a clinical, clean performance over the one hour, 12-minute encounter, doubling her winners (12) to unforced errors (6).
Sharapova played over five hours of tennis in her first two matches in Beijing, defeating Anastasija Sevastova in three hours in the opening round before needed two hours and 12 minutes to see off compatriot Ekaterina Makarova on Tuesday.
Halep hardly trailed over the course of the match, as she broke Sharapova's serve twice in each set to reach the quarterfinals.
Sharapova quickly leveled proceedings at 1-1 after Halep made a statement with a love break to start the match, but never managed to lead or restore parity in the opener again.
From deuce on the Sharapova serve at 1-1, the No.2 seed ran off a streak of 10 of the next 11 points to take firm command of the first set, earning an insurance break along the way in the fifth game.
The advantage held for Halep for the duration, as she took a one-set lead for the third time in eight career matches against Sharapova with an emphatic hold to 15.
As Halep tallied just one miscue in the opening set, the Russian struggled with her consistency, accumulating a total for 20 unforced errors to just seven winners.
Sharapova took her lone lead of the encounter with a four-deuce service game in which she saved a break point to start the second set, only to lose serve in her next time at the line to trail by a set and a break.
Rising to the occasion on serve, Halep dropped just three points in four service games of the second set, and twice held to love en route to building a 4-2 lead.
"I stayed longers on court, I practiced more, I practiced my serve more. I [served] baskets in a row," Halep said of her post-US Open practice stretch.
"I saw if I'm focused and I'm confident, I can hit the maximum that I can. I was very consistent today, there with confidence and just hitting the ball. I was relaxed and...actually many times I played against her, I felt like I could....beat her, but it didn't happen.
"Today, I said it's just another match, I just wanted to give everything I have, stay focused, calm and positive."
Stunning counterpunching from the back of the court saw Halep stretch her lead with her fifth and final break of the match, and she served out the match with aplomb upon rising from a changeover.
Sharapova supported Halep's assessment of her play after the match: "I think she played an incredible match, probably the best she's played against me in all of our previous meetings. I wasn't as sharp. I wasn't seeing the ball as well. I wasn't moving up and down as well as I have been against her.
"She was hitting the ball consistently, not making a lot of unforced errors, her service percentage was quite high. She did all the right things. She hit quite deep consistently. When I found myself far from the baseline, I didn't do a good job of coming back in the court. Credit to her, she kept me back there with her consistency."
The win for Halep sets up a quarterfinal meeting against the winner of the match between No.11 seed and defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska, or Daria Kasatkina, who defeated her last week at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open.
"Both of them are very tricky," Halep said. "I played against Kasatkina [last week] so maybe there's revenge [there], but you never know. She's a very difficult opponent, hitting differently a little bit and fighting until the end. I just have to look back what I did in Wuhan, what I didn't and try to play better.
"Radwanska has a very different game. I just have to play close to the lines and be aggressive. With both matches, I just have to stay focused like today, try to play my best and not thing about the result."