From a slate of awesome third round matches, two were played on Wednesday’s schedule at the China Open in Beijing. The most anticipated match of the day was a US Open rematch between Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova. Five weeks ago, Sharapova won a three set thriller, 6-4 4-6 6-3. This time round, it was a huge day for Halep who snapped a seven match losing streak against Sharapova with a superb display, 6-2 6-2.
Halep has had another super consistent year on tour but it has been somewhat defined by a series of tough losses, spearheaded by the French Open final defeat to Jelena Ostapenko. Wednesday though was Simona’s day! A huge difference in this match compared to the US Open was Halep’s much improved stats on serve with 77% of first serves in and 64% of second serve points won, the latter almost double compared to New York. It was noticeable that Halep was going for more on serve – there was a sensational second serve that blew my mind at *5-2 *0-15 which Sharapova could barely get her racquet on.
Sharapova didn’t play a good match and committed a total of 39 unforced errors. A lot of this came down to Halep who found decent depth on her groundstrokes and did a good job at moving the ball around, playing more offensively than some of their previous matches and forcing errors. I was most impressed with how Halep served out both sets – there were no wobbles and she looked focused, determined and confident. The final game with a hold to 15 was really superb – backhand winner, forehand winner, ace and an unreturnable.
I’m really happy for Simona and it was a fully deserved win!
The shot of the match – a stunning forehand pass by Halep.
Unable to watch the full match back? Highlights by the WTA for Halep vs. Sharapova are linked below.
Halep referenced all the work she had put in since the US Open for this win.
Sharapova was quick to credit Halep for her performance. Next up for Maria is Tianjin next week.
The final match of the day was a good one as Daria Kasatkina scored another big win, coming from a set down to beat the number 11 seed and defending champion, Agnieszka Radwanska, 4-6 7-5 6-2. The first quarter-final is set with a Wuhan rematch between Halep and Kasatkina.
After coming from a break down in the second set, I thought Radwanska had this wrapped up. However, Kasatkina hung in well as Radwanska seemed to tire, throwing in a bundle of errors at the end of the second set.
In her first tournament without Vladimir Platenik, Kasatkina has been a tad passive. On the positive side, she has been very solid and on this occasion, seemed to wear down Radwanska by the end. Radwanska’s form has been steady during this Asian Swing. I still feel she is building up her stamina following various health issues throughout the year.
There were plenty of hot shots in this match – Aga’s no-look forehand winner was a cracker!
Four second round matches were played on Wednesday with all of them being decided in straight sets. The Wuhan finalists went 1-1 for the day with the champion, Caroline Garcia extending her winning streak to seven with a 7-6(4) 6-4 win over Elise Mertens.
The Belgian player had been 0-5 down in the first set of her first round match against Dominika Cibulkova but on this occasion, lost a set from 4-0! Mertens twice failed to serve out the first set with Garcia rallying to take it on the tiebreak. The Frenchwoman dropped just five points on serve in the second set. Garcia will play Alizé Cornet in the next round – I wonder if it may be a match too far as she had treatment on her leg during the match against Mertens.
Ash Barty couldn’t contend with the number three seed, Elina Svitolina who maintained her 100% record over the Aussie, winning 6-4 6-2.
Jelena Ostapenko and Peng Shuai both won to set up a third rounder for Thursday. Ostapenko went seven out of 23 on break points in a 6-3 7-5 win over the returning, Sam Stosur, while Peng beat Monica Niculescu, 6-3 6-2. Fun fact – of their six encounters, this was the first to be decided in straight sets!
Jelena Ostapenko has been officially confirmed as the seventh qualifier for Singapore.
The remaining third round matches will be played in Beijing on Thursday. A preview for the match of the day between Caroline Wozniacki and Petra Kvitova is up on the blog.
A poll is up for Barbora Strycova vs. Daria Gavrilova – their only meeting in Toronto went the distance with Strycova winning, 4-6 7-6(5) 6-3.
Johanna Konta is out of Hong Kong next week.
An update from Sabine Lisicki.
And finally, the line-up for the Hopman Cup has been announced. I’m excited as my bro has just booked tickets – we’ll be at Germany vs. Canada on the Wednesday morning and Switzerland vs. USA on the Thursday evening! 😀