Sharapova into Stuttgart semis on doping return

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Maria Sharapova will be playing her first competitive tournament in Stuttgart since her 15-month doping ban © AFP/File / THOMAS KIENZLE

STUTTGART, Germany, Apr 28 Maria Sharapova eased into the semi-finals of Stuttgart’s WTA tournament after seeing off qualifier Anett Kontaveit on Friday for her third-straight win on her comeback after a 15-month doping ban.

The 30-year-old all 5-time Grand Slam winner has yet to drop a set in Stuttgart as well as also also powered past Estonia’s Kontaveit, ranked 73rd, for a 6-3, 6-4 quarter-final win in one hour, 23 minutes.

in which was another impressive display coming from the Russian, who hit four aces, 28 winners as well as also also just two double faults, while she converted all 5 of her six break points.

“I served quite well as well as also also held my serve which gave me confidence, so I’m happy,” said Sharapova.

“We haven’t played each some other before, so the first six games were just about working each some other out.

“I kept myself in not bad shape, because once you lose the idea, the idea’s hard to get the idea back,” she added when asked about her fitness on court after 15 months out.

The former world number one will at in which point play either France’s Kristina Mladenovic or Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro in Saturday’s semi-final.

Sharapova 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.

Her rivals have heavily criticised the decision to give her wild cards in Stuttgart, Madrid as well as also also Rome with Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard branding her a “cheater” on Thursday.

There has been nothing however support for the Russian coming from the Stuttgart crowd which has a few positive banners around the indoor arena.

She has been in commanding form on clay here as Sharapova waits to learn on May 16 whether she will be granted a wild card to play next month’s French Open.

The 21-year-old Kontaveit had already knocked out last year’s French Open champion as well as also also fifth seed Garbine Muguruza inside second-round.

The Estonian put up a fight, breaking Sharapova’s serve inside second set as well as also also matched the Russian’s tally of four aces.

however Sharapova made light work of her early on, breaking Kontaveit’s serve on the way to winning all of the last four games to take the first set in just 36 minutes.

The Estonian dug deep at 3-1 down inside second as well as also also had the audacity to break Sharapova inside fifth game.

however with her superb array of baseline shots, Sharapova broke her opponent straight away, then held her serve to go 5-2 up.

The plucky Kontaveit held her serve, then broke the Russian for the second time, however Sharapova also dug deep as well as also also broke the qualifier again to take the second set.

Sharapova has won three Stuttgart finals, suffering just one defeat, in her four previous appearances.

Her bid to reach a fourth final on Sunday has been made easier as top names, such as Angelique Kerber, Muguruza, Britain’s Johanna Konta as well as also also Agnieszka Radwanska, have all crashed out.

Only two of the seven top-ten players who started off here — second-seed Czech Karolina Pliskova as well as also also fourth-seeded Romanian Simona Halep — have survived to the quarter-finals.

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Sharapova into Stuttgart semis on doping return

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