January 4, 2018 / 11:33 AM / 6 months ago

Sharapova, Halep cruise into Shenzhen semi-finals

(Reuters) - Former world number one Maria Sharapova cruised past Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas and into the semi-finals of the Shenzhen Open in China on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO - Tennis - Kremlin Cup - Women's singles - Round 1 - Moscow, Russia - October 17, 2017 - Maria Sharapova of Russia in action against Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva

Sharapova, who won 6-3 6-3, struck 24 winners and five aces to stay on course for a title clash with top-ranked Simona Halep after the Romanian dismissed Aryna Sabalenka 6-2 6-2.

“I’m glad that I ended up being the winner of the match,” Sharapova said in a courtside interview.

“I didn’t play my best tennis and there’s certainly a lot of things to improve on in the next. The great thing is that I’m through and have another chance to play tomorrow.”

The five-times grand slam champion committed 22 unforced errors in the match but stepped up her game at decisive moments of the contest to get past her spirited rival.

FILE PHOTO - Tennis - WTA Tour Finals - Singapore Indoor Stadium, Singapore - October 27, 2017 Romania's Simona Halep in action during her group stage match against Ukraine's Elina Svitolina REUTERS/Edgar Su

Sharapova’s only title in 2017 came at the Tianjin Open, after she came back from a 15-month doping ban, and the world number 59 is aiming for a title-winning start to the year in her first visit to Shenzhen.

“I feel like I’m having a nice little tour of China. It’s my fourth Chinese city in a few months,” Sharapova added.

“It’s obviously been a great welcome here. It took many years for me to play this event but I’m really glad that I did.”

Sharapova plays Katerina Siniakova next after the defending champion beat fellow Czech Kristyna Pliskova 6-2 6-2.

Earlier, fourth seed Irina-Camelia Begu had to work hard to overcome Timea Babos 7-5 7-5 to set up a semi-final meeting with her compatriot Halep.

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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