World No 2 Simona Halep set up a mouth-watering third- round clash with Maria Sharapova at the China Open after the Romanian's opponent Magdalena Rybarikova retired due to illness trailing 6-1, 2-1 on Tuesday.
The 30-year-old wildcard beat Anastasija Sevastova in a tight three-set match in the opening round.
Sharapova, who has also been wrestling with injury, will take on American qualifier Jennifer Brady or fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova in the next round.
"There's a lot of depth in the game, by that I mean there's maybe many years ago you'd find yourself working through the first rounds", she said.
With her 15-month doping ban having sent her tumbling down the rankings, Sharapova knows she will have to get used to meeting the likes of Halep early on in competition.
"Winning is very special and when you lose it's tough and you have to go on and build and work on things that didn't work out for you", she said.
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Sharapova, a crowd favourite in Beijing, added: "But I love the challenge of playing against someone that's number two in the world".
Any momentum that Makarova carried into the third set was quickly quashed when Sharapova broke for 2-0, after a powerful backhand forced an error from Makarova down break point.
But I felt like although she won that second set, I was really motivated to start the third.
But her serve was suspect all match and the Latvian refused to submit.
The five-time grand slam champion said she had endured "a few ups and downs" in seeing off Makarova 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.
Earlier, the second seed Simona Halep battled past the American Alison Riske in three sets, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.
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