(Reuters) – World number two Simona Halep beat Maria Sharapova 6-2 6-2 in the China Open third round on Wednesday for her first win over the Russian in eight attempts.
Halep, who lost to Sharapova in the first round of the U.S. Open, won five out of nine break points and took advantage of an error-prone display to hand the Russian her first straight-sets defeat of the season in one hour and 12 minutes.
Despite hitting more winners than her rival, Sharapova committed 39 unforced errors and struggled to contend with the second seed’s power and aggression in Beijing.
“It was a great match, I think I played my best tennis against her,” Halep said.
“I served pretty well, and the work that I did after the U.S. Open, I could see it on court today. I’m really happy that I could do this. It’s my first victory against her and I just want to enjoy the moment.
“Today, I said it’s just another match, I just wanted to give everything I have, stay focused, calm and positive.”
Sharapova agreed with Halep’s assessment of the pair’s second meeting in six weeks, after not playing the Romanian for almost two years.
“I think she played an incredible match, probably the best she’s played against me in all of our previous meetings,” Sharapova said.
“I wasn’t as sharp. I wasn’t seeing the ball as well. I wasn’t moving up and down as well as I have been against her.
“She was hitting the ball consistently, not making a lot of unforced errors, her service percentage was quite high. She did all the right things.”
The Romanian goes through to the quarter-finals where she will take on either 11th seed Agnieszka Radwanska or Daria Kasatkina, who face off later on Wednesday.
French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia took one step closer to qualifying for the season-ending WTA Finals in Singapore with a 6-3 7-5 win over Australia’s Samantha Stosur in round two.
Also advancing to the third round were China’s Peng Shuai, who made short work of Romanian Monica Niculescu with a 6-3 6-2 win, and Wuhan Open champion Caroline Garcia of France who overcame Belgian Elise Mertens 7-6(4) 6-4.
Ukrainian Elina Svitolina then defeated Australia’s Ashleigh Barty 6-4 6-2 in the second round to set up a clash with Russia’s Elena Vesnina.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)