Russian Maria Sharapova will face Chinese Na Li for a place in the Madrid Open 2014 semi-final. The Sharapova vs Li Na Head to Head stands at 9-5.
Li Na withstood the attacks of the young adversary Sloane Stephens in Madrid, eventually rallying to defeat the American 2-6, 6-3, 6-2. It was a strong recovery from Li, after Sloane had dominanted the early portion of the match, going up 5-1 in the opening set. Li would need just one break in the second set to force a decider, where she stormed to a 4-0 lead before closing out the match 6-2.
Li’s issues during the match were her first serve percentages, which was at 52%, but she would adjust in the second two sets.
“She played well; she was hitting the ball heavy,” Li said of Stephens. “I felt normal at the beginning of the match, but when I lost that service game from 40-0 up, I was thinking about it for the whole set. I started making a lot of unforced errors and gave her so many points, and she was doing well, as well. But after the first set I was like, ‘Calm down.’ I knew I couldn’t think about that game anymore.
“She hits the ball pretty heavy. Normally the girls play more flat, but she plays pretty heavy. She also makes it look pretty easy on the court – she can slide, and she was running well, recovering very well on the court. So yeah, it was the first time we played each other, and she gave me trouble.”
The second match-up on court saw Maria Sharapova edge Samantha Stosur in an outstanding clay court battle. The two competitors remained on serve through the first nine games of the match, but Sharapova found the first break point of the match at 5-4, 40-30 up on Sam’s serve and made the best of her opportunity to steal the set 6-4.
The world No. 9 continued to pile on the pressure in the second set, as she won her opening game before she forced two break point opportunities on Stosur’s serve. Neither would lead to fruitful results, as Stosur would defend both points and bring the score to 1-1. The Russian would once again find a break shortly thereafter, and put herself at 5-3 30-15. Soon after, she won the set 6-3 to close out the match in 90 minutes.
This marks the 15th time these two competitors will meet on the WTA Tour, with Sharapova leading the head-to-head series 9-5. The Russian also leads their clay court encounters 3-1, including their most recent contest, which took place in Stuttgart last season. Sharapova has shown over the past few weeks why clay is her preffered surface, as she has managed to secure her spot in the Top 10 and lift her first title of the season. With all this in mind, she will likely hold the advantage in tomorrow’s encounter.
Prediction: Maria Sharapova in Three Sets