Shenzhen Open: Simona Halep crushes compatriot Irina-Camelia Begu to reach final

Katerina Siniakova

Maria Sharapova continued her preparations for an Australian Open return by beating Zarina Diyas 6-3, 6-3 Thursday to advance to the Shenzhen Open semifinals along with top-seeded Simona Halep. Begu kept faltering, unable to find her stride, and it was a comfortable first set victory for the world No.1.

"I always enjoy playing here and it's going to be a big challenge (Saturday)", Halep said. Everyone expected to be a meeting between Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep, and instead there will be just one player of them.

'I was strong enough to hit the ball [well] in the end'. "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".

In an hour and 55 minutes, Siniakova beat Sharapova 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 to set up the title defence clash against Halep.

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.

The vibrant Siniakova mixed up her game with great effect in the first set, working Sharapova around the court and unleashing rasping winners to break twice before serving out the set in assured fashion.

The Czech Siniakova fired 27 winners and 10 aces to prevail 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 but was made to work hard for the win after Russian Sharapova rediscovered her rhythm midway through the contest.

"I'm glad that I ended up being the victor of the match", Sharapova said in a courtside interview.



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