AGENCIES BEIJING, 3rd Oct: Wildcard Maria Sharapova claimed her second consecutive three-set victory at the China Open on Tuesday, as she outlasted fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, to advance to the third round.
Sharapova, who won the China Open title in her most recent appearance in Beijing in 2014, will face off against No.2 seed Simona Halep of Romania in the round of 16. This will be a rematch of their electric first-round encounter at the US Open this summer.
Sharapova had won the previous seven matches in her rivalry with Makarova; six of those came in straight sets, including a win in Sharapova’s first event of this year at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart. Makarova won a set for the first time since their very first meeting in 2011, but Sharapova prevailed in two hours and 12 minutes.
In other match, Two-time Grand Slam champion Petra Kvitova extended her run at the China Open on Tuesday, defeating American qualifier Varvara Lepchenko in the second round by the score of 6-4, 6-4.
In a battle of left-handers, the Czech No.12 seed was rarely tested in the 78-minute match, and improved her flawless head-to-head record against the American to eight wins and no losses.
Kvitova, the 2014 China Open runner-up (l. Sharapova) and a quarterfinalist last year, had a good serving day, with four aces and winning 88% of points on her first serve. Lepchenko was able to break Kvitova both times she had break points, but Kvitova's sturdy hitting gave her four breaks of her own.
Rafael Nadal came within a whisker of making an opening-round exit at the China Open on Tuesday as he was pushed to three sets by Frenchman Lucas Pouille before winning 4-6, 7-6(6), 7-5.
The world number one, who was beaten by Pouille the last time they met at the 2016 U.S. Open, lost a close first set before saving two match points in a second-set tiebreak to level things up.
Nadal needed all his experience to keep Pouille at bay in the decider and the match looked to be heading for another tiebreak before he pounced to break Pouille’s serve for the first time to go 6-5 up in the third.
The Spaniard held his nerve to close out the match in clinical fashion after two hours and 31 minutes.
Earlier on Tuesday, Juan Martin del Potro stormed into round two with a comprehensive 7-6(4) 6-4 win over Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas and will face third seed Grigor Dimitrov, who battled past Bosnian Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.
Eighth seed Nick Kyrgios breezed past Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-1, 6-2, the Australian serving 12 aces as he closed out the contest in under an hour.
John Isner, the number six seed, also pulled off a routine 6-2 6-3 victory over Tunisian qualifier Malek Jaziri, although two of the American’s unseeded
compatriots bowed out.
Jared Donaldson fought hard against seventh seed Tomas Berdych, but ran out of steam in the decider as he went down 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.
Jack Sock was the other American eliminated and the 25-year-old will be disappointed he could not hold off Andrey Rublev despite comfortably winning the first set against the Russian.
Rublev bounced back to win 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 and will face Berdych next.