x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Maria Sharapova overcomes 'nightmare' at Wimbledon

Familiarity of playing Taiwanese opponent before helps world No 1 win and Vera Zvonareva injury puts Kim Clijsters through to next round.

Maria Sharapova tribute to Taiwan's Su-Wei Hsieh after beating her in straight sets on Friday.
Maria Sharapova tribute to Taiwan's Su-Wei Hsieh after beating her in straight sets on Friday.

Maria Sharapova praised Taiwan's Hsieh Su-Wei for driving her crazy with her unusual style of play during the world No 1's 6-1, 6-4 victory in the Wimbledon third round on Friday.

Sharapova remains on course for a third Wimbledon final after seeing off world No 63 Hsieh in blustery conditions on Court One, but the Russian acknowledged it had been exactly the kind of tricky contest she anticipated.

The 25 year old faced Hsieh - the first Taiwanese woman to reach the last 32 at Wimbledon in the Open era - many times on the junior circuit and became familiar with her opponent's constant changes of pace and switching of her racquet from her right to left hand during rallies.

With the wind also playing havoc with her serve, Sharapova was never at her best, but she eventually found a way to subdue Hsieh and was quick to pay tribute to the 26 year old for pushing her all the way in their first meeting on the senior tour.

"I faced her many times in the juniors. She used to be a nightmare for me because she used to slice and dropshot on clay," Sharapova said. "I was like, 'Where did they learn how to play tennis like that?' She uses both hands, switches racquets.

"That's her game, it's to hit a lot of dropshots and slices and get people kind of crazy."

Sharapova admitted her knowledge of Hsieh's style was crucial as she focused on how to get on top of the Taiwan No 1 rather than becoming frustrated when points went against her.

"We used to have real battles in the juniors. I knew her game really well and I don't think she had time to do all of that today on grass.

"If I'm hitting a hard paced shot, I don't think she really has time to create, which is something that she really likes to do.

While Hsieh bowed out, there was better news elswhere for Asian tennis as Chinese 30th seed Peng Shuai stormed into the fourth round with a 6-1, 6-2 demolition of Arantxa Rus.

Holland's Rus had shocked US Open champion and fifth seed Sam Stosur in the previous round, but she could not summon up a repeat of that dynamic display and was blown away by Peng's all-court dominance on Court 12. Peng, who also reached the last 16 at Wimbledon 12 months ago, will face 17th seed Maria Kirilenko or Romania's Sorana Cirstea for a place in the quarter-finals.

Kim Clijsters reached the fourth round when 12th-seeded Vera Zvonareva retired with an apparent respiratory problem when trailing 6-3, 4-3.

Zvonareva was coughing loudly during the match and the 2010 finalist was in tears as she needed a medical time-out at 2-1 in the second set. The trainer took her pulse and she was examined with a stethoscope before resuming play, but had to retire four games later.

Clijsters said: "I think she was having difficulties breathing" and that it's "sad to see her end the tournament this way."

The Belgian is playing in her last Wimbledon as she plans to retire after this year's US Open. She will next play No. 8 Angelique Kerber, who beat Christina McHale of the United States 6-2, 6-3.

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