BEIJING, China - Simona Halep will face a familiar foe in Maria Sharapova in the third round of the China Open after a curtailed match against Magdalena Rybarikova.
The WTA World No.2 led 6-1, 2-1 when Rybarikova retired ill during their second round match on Tuesday. Halep will next face Sharapova in a repeat of their US Open epic in August, which the Russian won in three closely fought sets.
Sharapova holds a perfect 7-0 record against Halep, her Flushing Meadows success also following a victory over the Romanian in Beijing in 2012.
"You can take a little bit away from all the matches we've played in the past," Sharapova, who beat Ekaterina Makarova earlier on Tuesday, said. "We know each other's games very well. They've always been very challenging, tough, competitive, emotional.
"That's why we play these tournaments, play these events. You have to get through them. Maybe these are not the type of matchups you expect earlier in a tournament, but this is what I have now. I love the challenge of playing against someone that's No.2 in the world. She's a great player. She's had a great year. Any time you're able to face an opponent that's done something right and well, it's great to see where you are and where your level is."
Halep said she would approach Wednesday's match just like any other on the tour: "I don't have a special reaction. It's just another big challenge, nothing special. I played her many times, was close many times. Now it's a new day and we'll see. Maybe I can win. I really want to do it so tomorrow I will give everything.
"I should have served better to win that [US Open] match. I played pretty good, pretty well, and she played amazing. Physically I have to do better, serve better, move better and stay there - not think too much about the result, just the match.
"It's different that it's not the first round, it's always tough to play the first match of the tournament but here we are in the third round, so maybe it's going to be something different. But from my side I don't feel anything different. I'm just ready to play it and to give everything I have to win it. And we will see."
Halep was well on top against Rybarikova at the time of the Slovakian's retirement, racing to the first set in little over half an hour. This was in contrast to her first-round victory over Alison Riske, which took over two hours to complete.
The 26-year-old held a 2-1 head-to-head record against Rybarikova, winning their most recent meeting, in Toronto earlier this year.
Rybarikova, 29 on Wednesday, was appearing in the second round in Beijing for the first time but had no answer to the power and aggression of Halep's play, making 19 unforced errors and recording just 48% on her first serve in a one-sided first set.
Having seen off a break point in her opening game, Halep raced into a 5-0 lead with two breaks of her own, before Rybarikova saved a set point and finally registered on the scoreboard herself. Halep quickly brought up three further set-points on her next service game, taking it on the third to move ahead.
Halep earned three break points in the first game of set two, only for Rybarikova to display some resolve and recover to hold serve with a fine ace. Halep would not be contained, however, and held and broke to move 2-1 ahead before the Rybarikova called for the trainer.
After having her blood pressure taken on court, the WTA World No.28 was led off court for a medical time out. She subsequently retired, leaving the Romanian, who reached the quarterfinal here in 2014, to prepare for a Russian reunion.
"I played much better than the first round," Halep said of her display against Rybarikova. "I really felt the rhythm, even if she doesn't give much rhythm. I served better, moved better. It was a very good first set. I felt sorry for her that she was struggling after the match - it's not easy."