SHENZHEN: Maria Sharapova was made to work hard for a victory at the Shenzhen Open, coming from behind to beat unseeded American Alison Riske 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the second round.
The five-time Grand Slam champion fired 34 winners and saved seven out of 10 break points to get past her spirited opponent and set up a quarter-final clash with Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas who beat local hope Zhang Shuai 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4.
Twice a finalist at Shenzhen, Riske used power and precision to breeze through the first set and went up 2-1 in the second to leave Sharapova in trouble. The Russian then reeled off five of the next six games to level the contest at one set apiece.
Sharapova did not let the momentum slip in the deciding set, winning the final four games of the match to prevail in two hours and 22 minutes.
“I’m glad I got this kind of match. Although I would’ve wanted a quick and easy victory, these are the kind of matches that you need, especially with such a short preparation going into the Australian Open in terms of matchplay,” Sharapova said afterwards.
“I’m just glad that I came back. She played a really great match and as I said to her at the net, I thought it was a great quality match. In the end, I won it so I have another opportunity to keep going.”
Earlier, Kristyna Pliskova, the twin of former world number one Karolina Pliskova, stunned French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-1, 6-4 in just an hour and 20 minutes and stormed into the second round.
World number seven Ostapenko, who beat returning multiple major champion Serena Williams via a super tie-break 6-2, 3-6, 10-5 in an exhibition match in Abu Dhabi over the weekend, was undone by Pliskova’s powerful serves.
“I felt a bit nervous in the second set, but my serve was really working today, which was a big help,” Pliskova said after the match.
Pliskova, third on the WTA Tour’s ace charts last season, raced out to a 5-0 lead to start the match.
“My serve was great today, especially in the first set. I feel like it’s really fast here, so that can be tricky for both of us, and the first of us playing fast won the point.”
Pliskova next takes on Romania’s Ana Bogdan, who comfortably defeated Italy’s Camila Giorgi 6-4, 6-2.
Aryna Sabalenka also advanced to the quarter-finals with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Danka Kovinic, while Timea Babos defeated Magda Linette 6-2, 6-1.