Madrid Masters: Sharapova advances to the quarterfinals with a straight sets win over
Maria Sharapova earned a big victory while under pressure at the Mutua Madrid Open Wednesday.
The 2014 champion fought hard against clay specialist Kristina Mladenovic who faltered during moments that gave her the 6-3, 6-4 win on Arantxa Sanchez Court at La Caja Magica. It was Sharapova’s first advance to a quarterfinal since January and one she was happy to earn.
The two have ways of defeating one another in the sport which the French star has to her advantage in the Spanish capital.
Last year she took down Sharapova in three sets denying her a finals appearance in Stuttgart.
The 24-year-old is a specialist on clay and a runner-up from last year giving her a lot of confidence to make her title run.
She battled the Russian in the opening game gaining many opportunities to earn the break which occurred on a fourth of deuce.
Mladenovic forced Sharapova to make some mistakes that resulted in an easy service hold and a 2-0 lead.
The Russian broke in the third to end the early shutout but needed some advice from coach Tomas Hogstedt during the break.
His suggestion to move in on the ball wasn’t working out as the backhand from the French star took its toll in the fourth earning her two game points.
She put the game away returning her two-game margin that spelled a momentum build up for the 24-year-old.
Sharapova kept the score close putting her serve to work attacking Mladenovic’s backhand returns.
Her strategy turned into a service to love that had her much more focused than the previous games combined.
It was soon level terms between the players as Sharapova added winners into the mix; forcing Mladenovic to one side of her game before smashing a winner the other way.
The 31-year-old earned her first lead change having the range and groundstrokes down to a science.
With another break of Mladenovic, the Russian had her eyes set with service for the set in hand in the ninth. The Frenchwoman got into a short tie but an unforced error gave Sharapova set point where she fired high on a fly ball that set up deuce.
She dealt with another one but nailing a return down the line set up her third chance which Sharapova did not waste ending 39 minutes.
The dictation made by Sharapova was thanks to winning 70 percent on the first serve while landing more aces/winners than unforced errors.
With the thought of being down a set, Mladenovic held to open the second and fought hard to overcome the 0-40 hole Sharapova dug out.
When she etched out her first point in the second, Sharapova scored her second ace and third of the match to stay on serve.
They went through the next four games holding their service games until a break chance came to the former number one creating three break points. She won it on a long ball that ended the rally and gave her the lead change.
The tide of control was very much in the hands of the Russian who orchestrated a serve to love against Mladenovic putting the French star under serious pressure.
She somehow got to 40-0 but watched it come apart at the hands of the former number one who was on a mission to close out the match.
Mladenovic avoided letting it happen on her watch and stayed alive for just another game. It was there that the 31-year-old brought her best game forward landing a winner followed by an ace down the center line.
Going back to her attack on the backhand, Sharapova’s aggression and intensity earned her two match points where a cross-court shot came back into the net from Mladenovic ending her day in 1 hour and 32 minutes.
Sharapova launched the offence at the right moments during the match scoring 30 winners and nine aces against Mladenovic.
With her game in the right shape, she’ll go for a spot in the semis for the first time in four years facing surging Dutch star Kiki Bertens on Thursday.