Jan 042018

SHENZHEN: Former world number one Maria Sharapova cruised past Kazakhstan´s Zarina Diyas and into the semi-finals of the Shenzhen Open in China on Thursday.

Sharapova, who won 6-3 6-3, struck 24 winners and five aces to stay on course for a title clash with top-ranked Simona Halep after the Romanian dismissed Aryna Sabalenka 6-2 6-2.”I´m glad that I ended up being the winner of the match,” Sharapova said in a courtside interview.

“I didn´t play my best tennis and there´s certainly a lot of things to improve on in the next. The great thing is that I´m through and have another chance to play tomorrow.“The five-times grand slam champion committed 22 unforced errors in the match but stepped up her game at decisive moments of the contest to get past her spirited rival.

Sharapova´s only title in 2017 came at the Tianjin Open, after she came back from a 15-month doping ban, and the world number 59 is aiming for a title-winning start to the year in her first visit to Shenzhen.“I feel like I´m having a nice little tour of China. It´s my fourth Chinese city in a few months,” Sharapova added.

“It´s obviously been a great welcome here. It took many years for me to play this event but I´m really glad that I did. “Sharapova plays Katerina Siniakova next after the defending champion beat fellow Czech Kristyna Pliskova 6-2 6-2.Earlier, fourth seed Irina-Camelia Begu had to work hard to overcome Timea Babos 7-5 7-5 to set up a semi-final meeting with her compatriot Halep.

Meanwhile Sharapova admitted that she needed to play far better after the Russian eased into the semi-finals of the Shenzhen Open on Thursday with victory over Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan.

The 30-year-old Sharapova, who is unseeded in the tournament that serves as a build-up to the Australian Open, is embarking on her first full season since returning from a 15-month drugs ban in April. Murray, Nishikori out of Australian Open .

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