Madrid: Maria Sharapova reached the Madrid Open quarter-finals on Wednesday with an impressive 6-3, 6-4 demolition of France's Kristina Mladenovic, one of her most vocal critics.
Former world number one Sharapova fired 30 winners and nine aces in her victory.
Mladenovic, the world number 22, was runner-up in Madrid last year but she had no answer to the firepower of Sharapova who is set to at least return to the top-40 next week.
Victory was especially sweet for Sharapova who had lost to Mladenovic in the semi-finals in Stuttgart in 2017 in what was the Russian star's first tournament after serving a 15-month doping ban.
The French player blasted Sharapova for her use of the banned substance meldonium while also criticising her off-court behaviour, describing her as "rude".
Not that Sharapova was letting personal feelings cloud her joy at a third successive win, which has boosted her chances of being seeded at the French Open later this month.
"I don't know if anything she said in the past or I've said in the past ultimately matters," said Sharapova, the champion in Madrid in 2014.
"What matters is what happens on the stage that we play on. That's the most important aspect to me, is getting to the next round, getting to the quarter-finals of this tournament.
"I'm not entirely sure when all things are said and done and we're walking around with canes you're going to remember a Wimbledon first round a few years ago that I played against her, or Stuttgart in 2017 semifinal, or Madrid."
On Wednesday, Sharapova recovered from 1-3 down in the first set to take the opener with an ace.
A further break followed in the seventh game of the second set which proved key to her eventual victory.
"I just felt like I did the right things," Sharapova said. "Despite a slow start, I was still very positive."
Wozniacki, Muguruza knocked out
World number two Caroline Wozniacki was sent packing from the third round while third-ranked Garbine Muguruza followed her swiftly out the exit door.
Denmark’s Wozniacki lost 6-2, 6-2 to world number 20 Kiki Bertens, while Wimbledon champion Muguruza was beaten 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 by Daria Kasatkina in a thrilling late game.
Bertens, who reached the 2016 French Open semi-finals, beat the 27-year-old Wozniacki in an hour to claim the biggest scalp of her career and end Wozniacki’s hopes of reclaiming the number one spot from Simona Halep.
Australian Open champion Wozniacki had to win the Madrid title to overhaul Halep in the top spot but her defeat means the Romanian will retain first place.
Bertens’ will face five-times Grand Slam champion Sharapova in the last-eight.
Spaniard Muguruza was playing in the last-16 of the Madrid Open for the first time but could go no further as she was overpowered by 15th-ranked Kasatkina in a thrilling late game which lasted two hours and 28 minutes.
Muguruza got off to a bad start in surrendering the first set against Kasatkina, who she had lost to in the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in February.
The 2017 Wimbledon and 2016 US Open champion was on the ropes when she was broken for the second time in the second set to fall 4-2 behind, but she came out fighting, breaking back immediately and once more to take the set.
She also showed great fighting spirit in the decider after going 4-1 down, saving eight break points to hold her serve and then break again to make it 4-3.
The 21-year-old Kasatkina, however, won the next two games and served out for the match, clinching a quarter-final berth when the Spaniard hit beyond the baseline.
The Russian will meet Czech Petra Kvitova who overcame Estonian Anett Kontaveit 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3.
Earlier on Wednesday, Halep strolled into the quarter-finals with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Czech Kristyna Pliskova.
Halep, the two-time defending champion, struck 20 winners and broke Pliskova’s serve three times as she extended her winning streak in the Spanish capital to 15 straight matches.
After conceding the opener in 29 minutes, Pliskova produced a better second set but failed to deliver consistently as Halep saved all five of the break points she faced.
“I think she served much better (in the second set) and I couldn’t do much with the return,” Halep told a news conference.
“But I served well, too. I feel like it was a very good match, the hardest here. She has improved a lot since last year, we played together here, and she was a different player.”
Halep will next face Krystyna’s twin sister Karolina Pliskova, who raced past American Sloane Stephens 6-2, 6-3.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: May 10, 2018 09:28 AM