China Open: Simona Halep says hard work is paying off after beating Maria Sharapova for first time

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Finally: Halep claimed her first win over Sharapova in eight meetings.

After so many tight battles, Simona Halep has finally beaten Maria Sharapova for the first time in eight meetings, thanks to a 6-2, 6-2 drubbing in the Beijing third round on Wednesday.

The Romanian lost a heart-breaker to Sharapova in the US Open first round just five weeks ago, and their previous showdowns included a three-set defeat to the Russian in the 2014 Roland Garros final.

At the China Open on Wednesday, Halep secured the win in emphatic fashion, needing just 72 minutes to overcome the five-time Grand Slam champion and roll into the quarter-finals.

“It was a great match. I think I played my best tennis against her. I served pretty well and the work that I did after US Open, now I could see on court, and I’m really happy I could do this. It’s my first victory against her and I just want to enjoy the moment,” Halep told WTA Insider.

“Actually many times I played against her I felt that I can win the match, I can beat her, but it didn’t happen. Today I just said that it’s another match, I have just to give everything I have, to stay focused, calm and positive, which I did great and it helped me a lot.”

Sharapova had fought through two three-setters prior to her match against Halep, spending a total of five hours and 17 minutes on court in her opening two rounds versus Anastasija Sevastova (who beat Sharapova at the US Open), and Ekaterina Makarova.

The ex-world No. 1, who is still working her way back up the rankings following her 15-month doping ban, admits she lacked sharpness against Halep.

“Look, first of all, I think she played an incredible match, probably the best she’s played against me in all of our previous meetings. And 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,” said the 30-year-old Sharapova.

“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.”

Currently ranked 104 in the world (she’s projected to rise to around 86 next week), Sharapova will next head to Tianjin, where, like in Bejiing, she will be playing as a wildcard.

During her time away from the sport, Sharapova penned her memoir ‘Unstoppable: My Life So Far’, in which she discussed her journey as a youngster from Sochi to Florida with her father, her rivalry with Serena Williams, and her feelings about tennis.

She was asked in Beijing to elaborate on some of her comments in the book, regarding how some players don’t necessarily love the sport.

“I think in order to be a tennis player, you have to be doing somewhat of a good job. Like, no one that is here is not doing a good job. The level is too high. It’s too physical, too mental. You just won’t make it. Hard work is not good enough anymore. Maybe it was I don’t know how many years ago, but that’s just not a factor anymore,” explained Sharapova.

“The reason I say that is, I mean, there’s some incredible moments, very high moments, and there are very low moments. There have been times where I get off the court and you think, I don’t wish this on my future child.

“The feeling is so tough and disappointing. You work so much, you dedicate so much of your time, you have so many people around you, and sometimes it doesn’t work according to plan, so you start asking questions.

“But then once you work, you keep going, keep fighting through it, the rewards are very incredible and special. They have nothing to do with finance, they have nothing to do with trophies, it’s really internal. I think sport gives people something that nothing really else can replicate. I think that’s what makes it so great.”

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