After Maria Sharapova displayed her battling qualities to recover from a set and a break down against Alison Riske to reach the quarter-finals of the Shenzhen Open, the Russian hailed her win as the kind of match that she ‘needs’ in order to prepare effectively for the Australian Open.
Riske led 6-3 2-1 but the five-time Grand Slam champion fought her way back into the contest and eventually overcame the American 3-6 6-4 6-2 to advance to the last-eight, where she will take on Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas.
The 30-year-old was happy with the chance to keep going in China but was keen to look at the bigger picture as she prepares for the first Slam of 2018.
Sharapova – who won the Australian Open in 2008 – will return to Melbourne Park for the first time since losing to Serena Williams in the quarter-finals of the 2016 edition, where she then tested positive for meldonium and was subsequently banned from the sport for 15 months.
The world No. 59 has clawed her way back up the rankings since her return in April and she is now pushing for a fine start to 2018 on the biggest stage after being tested early on in the season.
‘I’m glad I got this kind of match,’ she said after the win.
‘Although I would’ve wanted a quick and easy victory, these are the kind of matches that you need, especially with such a short preparation going into the Australian Open in terms of match play.
‘I’m just glad that I came back, she played a really great match and as I said to her at the net, I thought it was a great quality match.
‘In the end, I won it so I have another opportunity to keep going.’