Halep, Sharapova sent packing out of Madrid Open

Halep, Sharapova sent packing out of Madrid Open
Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova returns the ball to Romania's Simona Halep during their WTA Madrid Open quarterfinal tennis match.

Madrid - Pliskovs and Bertens advance with contrasting victories


Published: Thu 10 May 2018, 8:59 PM

Last updated: Thu 10 May 2018, 11:01 PM

World number one Simona Halep's Madrid Open hat trick hopes bit the dust as she was overpowered 6-4 6-3 in the quarterfinal by inspired Czech Karolina Pliskova on Thursday.

Also, Maria Sharapova's French Open preparations were dealt a blow as she was beaten in three sets by Kiki Bertens.

Sharapova, the Madrid champion in 2014, led by a set on Arantxa Sanchez court and threatened a comeback from 5-1 down in the decider but her Dutch opponent held on for a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory.

Bertens, who reached the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2016, will now face France's Caroline Garcia for a place in Saturday's final.

Halep, who has won the tournament for the last two years, had looked imperious on her way to the last eight, dropping only nine games in three matches including Wednesday's win against Pliskova's twin sister Kristyna.

But her winning streak in the Spanish capital ended at 15 matches as her 26-year-old opponent continued her impressive form on the red clay having won the Stuttgart title last month.

It was sixth seed Pliskova's first claycourt victory over Halep and it was the kind of authoritative performance that will turn a few heads as the French Open looms later this month.

She quickly shrugged off the loss, however, saying she would now focus on Rome next week before turning her thoughts to another attempt to land a first Grand Slam title. "I'm not stressing myself about the points. I'm not stressing myself about this busy schedule," she said.

"I just want to enjoy it. I enjoy it. I'm looking forward already to start the next tournament. There is no pressure. I feel like it's an opportunity to play my best tennis."

On Wednesday, Maria Sharapova reached the Madrid Open quarterfinals on Wednesday with an impressive 6-3, 6-4 demolition of France's Kristina Mladenovic, one of her most vocal critics.

Former world number one Sharapova fired 30 winners and nine aces in her victory which gave her a last-eight clash with Dutch player Kiki Bertens who knocked out world No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-2.

Mladenovic, the world number 22, was runner-up in Madrid last year but she had no answer to the firepower of Sharapova who is set to at least return to the top 40 next week.

Victory was especially sweet for Sharapova who had lost to Mladenovic in the semifinals in Stuttgart in 2017 in what was the Russian star's first tournament after serving a 15-month doping ban.

The French player blasted Sharapova for her use of the banned substance meldonium while also criticising her off-court behaviour, describing her as "rude".

Not that Sharapova was letting personal feelings cloud her joy at a third successive win, which has boosted her chances of being seeded at the French Open later this month.

"I don't know if anything she said in the past or I've said in the past ultimately matters," said Sharapova, the champion in Madrid in 2014.

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