WTA Shenzhen: Maria Sharapova retires against Arina Sabalenka

Tennis - After reaching the semi-final, Vera Zvonareva returns inside the top-100 for the first time in six years!

by Jovica Ilic
WTA Shenzhen: Maria Sharapova retires against Arina Sabalenka

The quarter-final match between the top seed Arina Sabalenka and the 5th seed Maria Sharapova has been one of the most anticipated at this year's Shenzhen event but unfortunately it could not have been completed, with Sharapova retiring while trailing 6-1 4-2 due to a left thigh injury in just under 80 minutes. Sabalenka held the strings of the match in her hands, saving seven out of eight break points to keep the pressure on the Russian who struggled on both the first and second serve to give her serve away four times before she decided she has had enough.

Arina made the best possible start, breaking in game two after a deep return and saving a break point in the following game after forcing an error from Sharapova to secure the lead with a booming ace down the T line. Maria was broken at 15 in game six and Sabalenka won the set after saving three break points in the next game, forging a 6-1 lead with a service winner.

Sharapova asked for a medical timeout before the start of the second set and she didn't want to risk a bigger injury, retiring after the sixth game to send Arina into the semis. The 34-year-old Vera Zvonareva earned a wild card to enter the main draw and she used it with both hands, overpowering Veronika Kudermetova 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 in two hours and 54 minutes to advance into the last four and secure the place in the top-100 on Monday for the first time since January 2013! There were 24 break points up for grabs and the more experienced Russian earned five breaks, saving seven out of 10 chances she gave to a qualifier to cross the finish line first.

After early breaks they exchanged, Kudermetova secured another one in the perfect moment at 5-4 to get her name on the scoreboard. Zvonareva kept pushing and she prevailed in set number two with two late breaks, holding at 30 in the 12th game to level the score and gain the momentum that carried her in service games in the decider.

Veronika couldn't produce similar numbers and she lost serve in game five, serving to stay in the match at 3-5. That ninth game proved to be the longest of the match and Vera had no less than seven match points, converting the last one to wrap up the triumph and stay on a course for the first title since Baku in 2011! Quarter-final results:

[1]Arina Sabalenka (BLR) vs [5]Maria Sharapova (RUS) 6-1 4-2 Ret.
Yafan Wang (CHN) vs [Q]Monica Niculescu (ROU) 2-6 7-6(4) 6-1
Alison Riske (USA) vs Sorana Cirstea (ROU) 7-5 6-1
[WC]Vera Zvonareva (RUS) vs [Q]Veronika Kudermetova (RUS) 4-6 7-5 6-3

Maria Sharapova Vera Zvonareva