Maria Sharapova leveraged 18 years of match-winning experience culled during a trophy-laden career to overcome Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4, 7-5 in a gripping Mubadala World Tennis Championship women’s match at the International Tennis Stadium in Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi.
Tomljanovic, a key member of the Australian team to reach a first Fed Cup final since 1993 in November, broke her opponent twice in the first six games to take a 4-2 lead in the pair’s first-ever encounter. However, the 32-year-old Sharapova produced a series of typical powerful groundstrokes to level the opening set at 4-4.
The former World No. 1, cheered on by passionate UAE supporters, produced a stunning cross-court forehand return to break her opponent and take a 5-4 lead, before closing out the first set 6-4.
The pair traded service games at the start of the second set before Tomljanovic broke in game four to take a 3-1 lead. Sharapova dug in and found an extra gear to break her opponent in consecutive games and serve out the match with an ace on match-point. Sharapova’s victory followed wins for Stefanos Tsitsipas and Karen Khachanov in the men’s quarter-finals.
“It’s tough to measure in numbers but it felt good to get out there today,” said Sharapova. “I felt confident and there are some things I did well, definitely. I kept playing and kept improving the aspects of my game which were needed. I wanted to get a higher percentage of first service today, to give me the chance to get into the points and I did a good job of keeping that percentage high.”
After dazzling Abu Dhabi on her first UAE capital appearance, Sharapova added: “I love coming here. I had a real nice time a couple of years ago at the F1 and I experienced the culture of this great city. Today, it was nice to play in front of people who hadn’t seen me play before and if I have the opportunity I would love to come back.”
Friday’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship action begins with a fifth-place play-off between Andrey Rublev and Hyeon Chung at 3pm, before Tsitsipas faces World No. 2 Novak Djokovic and Khachnov takes on World No. 1 Rafael Nadal.
Off court, ticket holders will be treated to player clinics, Q&A sessions and autograph signings with the world’s best. Tickets are available from www.ticketmaster.ae
For more details on the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, visit: www.mubadalawtc.com