“You take care of yourself ok? If you play like this you’re going to be No.1, I promise. You played unbelievably". Maria Sharapova offered some firm words of encouragement to her limping opponent Wang You, forced to retire at 6-7(4), 5-2.
In the quarterfinals of the Shenzhen Open, the Russian will face Aryna Sabalenka who beat Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-3 6-3. 17-year-old Wang, a two-time junior Grand Slam champion in doubles last year, offered a stunning performance in the first set against Sharapova who cannot be satisfied from playing consistent power-tennis from the baseline.
Wang held four set points at 5-4 but in the end she double-faulted twice in a row to allow Sharapova to level the set at 5-5. A string of forehand winners marked the opening points of the ensuing tiebreak, that Wang sealed on a forehand error from the former world No.1 after 73 minutes.
Sharapova completed the set hitting two more winners and six more unforced errors than the Chinese, the youngest player in the main draw. Things worsened at 3-2 when Wang took a medical timeout. In the first point after the resumption of play, she fell to the ground and immediately returned to the chair automatically forfeiting two games, but she was clearly unable to continue.
Sabalenka will now face Sharapova in a rematch of her first WTA final in Tianjin in 2017, when the Russian claimed her first title after the suspension. The Belarusian won seven of nine close games to end Alexandrova's six-match winning streak.
WTA Shenzhen - Second round
Yafan Wang (CHN) d. Ons Jabeur (TUN) 3-6, 6-4, 6-4
Maria Sharapova (RUS) d. [WC] Xinyu Wang (CHN) 6-7(5), 5-2
Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) d. Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS) 6-3, 6-3
[Q] Monica Niculescu (ROU) - Kristyna Pliskova (CZE)