Former champions, Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep crash out of Madrid Open: Sharapova beaten by Bertens, Halep overpowered by Pliskova

Leye Aduloju in WTA 10 May 2018
  • Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep crashed out of the Mutua Madrid Open following respective quarter final losses to Kiki Bertens and Karolina Pliskova
  • Halep was on a 15-match winning streak in Madrid, where she was seeking a third straight titles
  • In-form Pliskova and Bertens have emerged as strong candidates for deep runs at Roland Garros
  • Watch & bet on tennis live from Madrid at bet365 > live streaming > tennis (geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify).  
Maria Sharapova. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Two –time defending champion, Simona Halep and 2014 winner, Maria Sharapova both crashed out of the Mutua Madrid Open following respective quarter final losses on a dramatic day at the Caja Majica.

WTA Mutua Madrid Open tennis is live from Madrid from 5-12 May 2018
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World number one, Halep fell in straight sets to a white-hot Karolina Pliskova, while Sharapova was taken down by Dutch clay court queen, Kiki Bertens in three sets.

Bidding to win the Madrid Open for a third straight year, and hence become the first woman to claim three titles in the Spanish capital, Halep had looked in supreme form in the opening couple of rounds, dropping just nine games in straight-sets victories over Ekaterina Makarova, Elise Mertens, and Kristyna Pliskova, but she found her match in Kristyna’s twin, Karolina, who extended her impressive clay-court winning streak to nine matches with a dominant performance against the top seed.

Karolina Pliskova. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images)
It was another strong serving display from Pliskova, who was contesting her first ever Madrid Open quarter final- she hit only two aces, but served at 70%, converting 80% of first serve points, and an impressive 9 of 13 on second serve points. Halep had won six of their previous seven meetings, and had ominously made the better start, breaking for the 2-0 lead, but Pliskova hit back immediately before breaking again in the seventh game. The Czech missed two set points as Halep served to stay in the match at 3-5, but Pliskova served it out to love in the next game, sealing the set when Halep sent a regulation forehand long.


Beyond her power hitting, a major highlight of this Pliskova performance was her patience- she was ready to stay with Halep from the baseline, and ultimately extracted 26 unforced errors off the racket of the world number one.

Simona Halep. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Halep barely had a sniff in the second set, as Pliskova motored away, breaking twice and offering no break points in a devastating exhibition of power tennis, which featured a remarkably clean 20 winners and 16 unforced errors. Clay has long been seen as Pliskova’s weakest surface, and rightly so as she still doesn’t move as well on the dirt, but evidence from the last two tournaments suggests that she has enough in her arsenal to make up for her shortcomings. Pliskova powered to her first title of the season in Stuttgart, stopping the dangerous quartet of Kiki Bertens, Jelena Ostapenko, Anett Kontaveit and CoCo Vandeweghe en route the title, and she has added four superb wins in Madrid, taking out Elena Vesnina, Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens and now Halep in a stunning run of results. She did make the semi-finals at Roland Garros, losing to Halep in three sets and her current form has surely pushed her right into the top bracket of favourites to win in Paris this year.

"I never really thought I can beat her,", was Pliskova’s brutally honest admission after the match. "This time somehow today I felt like I will have for sure chances - even the warmup I felt so good". 
"I was feeling very well in the rallies what we played, even from my backhand side... My forehand was working. I think I played one of my best matches this year for sure, and for sure on clay in my life."

Despite the loss, which halted her 15-match winning streak in Madrid, she will retain her No. 1 ranking next Monday, but Pliskova may be setting herself up for another charge to the top of the world in the coming months. The Czech star will play either Petra Kvitova or Daria Kasatkina in the last four.

Joining Halep through the exit door was Maria Sharapova, who succumbed to a 4-6 6-2 6-3 defeat to Kiki Bertens on Thursday. Sharapova had looked good in the first few rounds, moving past Mihaela Buzarnescu, Irina-Camelia Begu and Kristina Mladenovic without dropping a set, but quarter final opponent, Bertens had also been in fine fettle, having won nine of her ten previous matches on clay this season, including claiming her biggest career title in Charleston.

Kiki Bertens. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Sharapova arrived Madrid on a four-match losing streak; and had not won a match since the Australian Open, but she found some form in the Spanish capital, and was arguably a slight favourite going into Thursday’s meeting with Bertens. However, Bertens has been one of the most consistent players on the surface in the last couple of years; and was coming off a crushing third-round victory over world number two, Caroline Wozniacki in the previous round- the biggest win of her career.

Sharapova had the brighter opening, taking the first set 6-4, but Bertens dominated the remainder of the match, breaking the Russian six times on her way to a two-hour victory to reach her first Premier Mandatory semi-final.

The 26-year-old moves advances to a last-four meeting with Caroline Garcia, while Sharapova is left to reflect on what was overall a positive tournament.

"I think there are definitely a few that I can take away from this," she said after the match. "But I also look at these types of matches, I see a lot of things I should be better at, I should improve at. I think it's a combination of, yes, taking the positives, but also being a little tough on yourself and expecting a little bit more from yourself. That's the only way to improve. You can't keep giving yourself a pat on the back".


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Former champions, Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep crash out of Madrid Open: Sharapova beaten by Bertens, Halep overpowered by Pliskova

Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep crashed out of the Mutua Madrid Open after falling to Kiki Bertens and Karolina Pliskova in Thursday's quarter finals.

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