05302017

Stuttgart Open: Maria Sharapova through to semi-finals with victory over Anett Kontaveit

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova has faced criticism from some of her rivals for her comeback

Maria Sharapova continued her fine form after returning from a doping ban with a straight-sets victory over qualifier Anett Kontaveit to progress to the semi-finals of the Stuttgart Open.

The Russian, playing her first tournament since a 15-month suspension, beat Estonian Kontaveit 6-4 6-3.

The 30-year-old broke twice in the first set, and dug deep in the second to take victory in one hour 23 minutes.

“I served quite well, which gave me confidence. I’m happy,” said Sharapova.

“I kept myself in good shape, because once you lose it, it’s hard to get it back.”

Sharapova now faces Kristina Mladenovic on Saturday.

The Serb was one of the players who criticised the decision to give the former world number one wild cards in Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome.

The five-time Grand Slam winner’s world ranking points expired during her suspension for testing positive for meldonium.

But she is yet to drop a set in Germany and will earn an automatic place in qualifying at the French Open if she reaches the final in Stuttgart.

The former world-number-one was called “a cheat” by 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard on Thursday.

But in response, said she was “way above” replying to criticism of her comeback by her rivals.

Analysis

BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller:

The draw has been kind to Sharapova – the frailties of the sport’s leading lights mean she has not yet faced a top-30 player – but she is playing exceptionally well after 15 months free of competition.

She says she will take no extra motivation from the comments made by Mladenovic, or from the knowledge just one more win will guarantee a place in French Open qualifying.

But her tone changes significantly when the issue of drugs is raised: her answers became very curt when replying to questions about the proposed increase in annual tests.

And when asked whether her team – about whom she had just spoken glowingly – were upset she did not tell them about her meldonium use, she replied: “That is such an inappropriate question. Can we do one last one from someone else?”

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