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Shenzhen Open: Aryna Sabalenka reaches SF after Maria Sharapova's retirement from match

Rudy Martinez
04 Jan 2019, 12:35 IST

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka

Maria Sharapova had to throw in the towel ending her run at the Shenzhen Open on Friday. The 31-year-old suffered a left leg injury during her quarterfinal match against Aryna Sabalenka, calling it quits midway through the second set. With the retirement, it allowed the top seed to continue on making her way to the semifinals for the first time at the tournament.

After an unfortunate end to her opponent’s terrific fight on Wednesday, Sharapova got a pass in what was nearly her demise at the tournament. The 31-year-old veteran was on the verge of forcing a third set but Xinyu Wang suffered an injury to her leg resulting in her retirement. It set a second meeting against the 20-year-old Belarusian who held Ekaterina Alexandrova to three-game wins in straight sets.

With her history against Sharapova being very close in their last competition, the world number 13 looked to even the series and record a personal best in her second consecutive quarterfinal at Shenzhen.

She came out of the blocks quick as a flash against Sharapova scoring a serve to love before consolidating it with a break. Sabalenka had to fight a little harder in the third but even after Sharapova forced deuce, the Belarusian gained the AD point to go up 3-0. Sharapova got on the board warmed up in the fourth to end Sabalenka's winning ways.

It was short for the tennis vet as she gave into the Belarusian's offence who earned back the three-game margin. The 31-year-old called down Tomas Hogstedt who asked Sharapova to get into another gear and if her issues were still bothering her to call the physio. Another game got away from Sharapova who was having some sort of issue while giving free points to Sabalenka.

She served at 5-1 getting deep with the Russian who put everything in trying to break the Belarusian and win another one. Despite her attempts, gaining three break point attempts, the 31-year-old couldn’t lock down the opportunity ending 32 minutes. The trainer was called to the court for Sharapova to check out her left leg. She took an off-court medical timeout that took less than ten minutes until she returned to the court.

The second set got underway with her showing some power in her serve that helped keep Sabalenka back to lead. The got into a lengthy draw in the second going four breaks before the 20-year-old contained her service game. It took a lot of effort from the fifth seed who struggled in the third losing control of her core strength to break under pressure. The top seed also made some mistakes to keep the score level after four.

After another battle for control in the fifth, it was clear that Sharapova was in physical pain which she ended up losing after two breaks of deuce. When Sabalenka clinched a 4-2 lead, Sharapova called it quits and retired from play, bringing an end to the 1 hour and 20 minutes on the court. The 31-year-old couldn’t deal with the pain in her leg that became just too much.

It certainly put a question mark on whether the 2008 winner and three-time finalist of the Australian Open would be better in time. While she went on the mend, the world number 13 march into Saturday’s semifinal awaiting the winner between Monica Niculescu and Yafan Wang.

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