• Sharapova into Stuttgart semifinals on doping ban return


    STUTTGART, Germany: Maria Sharapova eased into the semi-finals of Stuttgart’s WTA tournament after seeing off qualifier Anett Kontaveit on Friday (Saturday in Manila) for her third-straight win on her comeback after a 15-month doping ban.

    The 30-year-old five-time Grand Slam winner has yet to drop a set in Stuttgart and powered past Estonia’s Kontaveit, ranked 73rd, for a 6-3, 6-4 quarterfinal win in one hour, 23 minutes.

    This was another impressive display from the Russian, who hit four aces, 28 winners and just two double faults, while she converted five of her six break points.

    “I served quite well and held my serve which gave me confidence, so I’m happy,” said Sharapova.
    “We haven’t played each other before, so the first six games were just about working each other out.

    “I kept myself in good shape, because once you lose it, it’s hard to get it back,” she added when asked about her fitness on court after 15 months out.

    In Saturday’s semi-final, the former world number one will face France’s Kristina Mladenovic, ranked 19th in the world, who beat Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3, 6-2.

    “She is showing great form at the moment, it’s a semi-final, so I expect a really tough match,” said Mladenovic on Sharapova.

    The Russian only made the main draw for Stuttgart after being given a wild card as her ranking was wiped out after testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

    Mladenovic was one of the players who criticized the decision to give Sharapova wild cards in Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome.

    But Sharapova gave a terse answer when asked if her next opponent’s comments would motivate her to reach Sunday’s final: “not at all”.

    There has been nothing but support for the Russian from the Stuttgart crowd.

    She has been in commanding form as she waits to learn on May 16 whether she will be granted a wild card for the main draw of next month’s French Open.

    However, if she wins Sunday’s final, Sharapova will rank approximately 125th in the world — high enough to at least allow her a qualifying place at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon.



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