WUHAN, China -- No. 4 Maria Sharapova suffered a stunning loss, 7-6(3), 7-5, to Swiss qualifier Timea Bacsinszky in the third round of the Wuhan Open on Wednesday.
After losing a tight first set, Sharapova looked on her way to forging yet another three-set comeback, leading by a break in the second set. Though she did well to set up points and keep Bacsinszky on the run, she struggled to put away the final shot. Bacsinszky, ranked No. 61, continued to play with confidence and put just enough pressure on Sharapova to claw her way back into the set and close out the match. It's another disappointing loss for Sharapova, who admits she's struggled with consistency since the tour turned to hard courts over the summer.
"I think it's been a mixture of positives and negatives," Sharapova said of her hard court season and 8-4 record since Wimbledon. "I felt like in some matches I found my level and it's where I want it to be. In others, certainly not at top form, a bit inconsistent. That's kind of how it's played out."
The win was Bacsinszky's first over a top five player and puts her into her second straight quarterfinal, an amazing accomplishment given the fact that she very nearly walked away from the game for a career in hotel management and hospitality. She was interning at a hotel in the Spring of 2013 when she received an email from the WTA informing her she was on the qualifying list for the French Open. Bacsinszky, a prodigious talent as a junior who was forced into tennis by her controlling father, said it was the first time she felt she could make an affirmative choice in her tennis career. She chose tennis.
"I said to my boss, hey, I'm playing the French Open tomorrow so I cannot work today," she said, laughing. "It was pretty funny, but he said, 'Okay, go. Tell me if you want to come back.' On the way, I took my car, drove from Lausanne to Pari -- it's five hours -- I was in my car listening to one song of Massive Attack, "Teardrop," and this one will be my all‐time favorite, because actually I just realized so many things, like really something amazing."
Reinvigorated, she teamed up with Swiss coach Dimitri Zavialoff, a long-time coach to Stan Wawrinka. She toiled away on the ITF circuit and began the 2014 season ranked No. 285. She won back-to-back ITF tournaments to start the season and made her first WTA quarterfinal since 2010 in Portugal. With her win over Sharapova, who she lost to at Wimbledon this summer, she's on the verge of cracking the top 50.
"I don't know really the limits that I have in this sport, so I'm still trying to find them," Bacsinszky said. "Hopefully they are far away, and then I can learn every day." She plays Caroline Wozniacki on Thursday.