Maria Sharapova can’t continue China love affair as world number one Simona Halep cruises in Shenzhen
The Russian is unable to follow up her recent Tianjin Open success, falling to Katerina Siniakova in the semi-finals
Former world number one Maria Sharapova was dumped out in the semi-finals of the Shenzhen Open, losing in three sets to holder Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic on Friday.
The Russian will return to the top 50 next week with the Australian Open looming at the end of the month, but she failed to reach her second final since returning last April after a drugs ban.
Siniakova, the sixth seed, beat the 30-year-old 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 and will face world number one Simona Halep in the final.
Halep cruised into the decider in southern China with a comfortable 6-1, 6-4 victory over fellow Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu.
Sharapova was banned for 15 months for taking the performance-enhancing substance meldonium, and has been working her way up the rankings since returning to action, winning the Tianjin Open in October.
Halep, who hit 15 winners to win 6-1 6-4 in an hour and 29 minutes, relied on precision and counterpunching in a tight second set to seal a second career final at Shenzhen.
Top seed Halep broke her rival early in the contest to race to a 4-1 lead. Begu sent a forehand wide in a see-sawing sixth game as Halep broke again and took the first set on serve.
Begu, seeking a first win over Halep in her sixth attempt, fought back after an early break to lead 3-2 in the second set.
She attacked her rival with great gusto but Halep subdued the comeback attempt and sealed the match.
“It was a tough match,” Halep said. “I know she is a strong player and in the second set you could see she was improving her game so it was a tougher battle.
“I think I was strong enough to stay there and hit the ball stronger in the end because the energy was falling a little bit. I came back, I served pretty well in the last game and I’m pretty proud of my victory today, it was a tough one.”
Additional reporting by Reuters