Maria Sharapova cruised to the second semifinal of the year at the Tianjin Open. After the surprising run in Stuttgart, in her very first tournament after the suspension, Sharapova came back into the best four as she comfortably beat Stefanie Voegele 6-3 6-1 winning seven games in a row from 3-3 in the first.
The former World No.1 will face the 2016 champion Shuai Peng as she thrashed Sara Sorribes Tormo, bidding for her maiden top 30 career win, 6-0 6-1. Voegele and Sharapova shared early break, but from the sixth game the Russian took control of the match.
Not particularly aggressive or accurate in her first return games, Sharapova started to find the exact range off the forehand side. The former No.1 dictated the pace of the rallies from the centre and offered Voegele flat and deep returns that the Swiss struggled to counter.
In the eighth game, a streak of those return near the opponent's body helped Sharapova to move 0-40 up. Voegele brought the game to deuce thanks to a couple of backhand unforced errors. But the Russian delivered a down the line forehand winner and put pressure on the Swiss No.196 who lost her serve for the second time as she hit a second double fault on the fourth break point.
A couple of out-wide aces and a massive backhand winner, Sharapova sealed the first set 6-3. Voegele started the second suffering an early break in the opening game and never came back. Sharapova hit a couple of double faults in the fourth game but the Swiss didn't manage to break back.
In the end, her eighth double fault and two massive winners helped Sharapova to clinch the 14th win of the season. Christina McHale surrendered to the fifth deefat in seven meetings against Sara Errani. The American No.65 won the first set, served for the match at 6-5 in the second but after more than three hours she had to accept defeat.
Errani won 5-7 7-6 6-1 and claimed the second WTA semifinal of the year after her run in Rabat. Thanks to this hard fought win, the 16th this year, Errani is projected to climb back to the top 200 after a single main draw appearance since her suspension.
The Italian qualifier will face for the first time Aryna Sabalenka. The Belarusian claimed the tenth WTA main draw victory this season as she beat Lin Zhu 6-3 6-4 to reach the second career semifinal at WTA-level after the defeat suffered to Timea Babos at Tashkent earlier this year.
Sabalenka, whose primary role helped Belarus beat the Netherlands and Switzerland to reach a historical Fed Cup final without the help from Victoria Azarenka, sealed the 28th win of the year, the 22nd on hardcourts, against the Chinese hope who managed to rescue 31% of second serve points in her first meeting against the tall and poweful Belarusian.
Sabalenka, sustained by 4 aces, according to her average this season, is projected to climb into the top 100 for the first time in her career, at around No.90: she could raise to around No.75 claiming the first WTA final.
Sabalenka will face Errani or McHale. .