MARIA SAYS SHE’S NOT AN­GRY

For­mer world No 1 wants more ‘tough matches’ af­ter los­ing in Stuttgart semis

New Straits Times - - Sport -

MARIA Sharapova said more tough matches are her pri­or­ity af­ter los­ing in the semi-fi­nals in Stuttgart on her con­tro­ver­sial come­back from a 15month dop­ing ban.

Maria, a five-time Grand Slam win­ner and for­mer world num­ber one, lost 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 to Kristina Mlade­n­ovic in a gru­elling twohours, 38-minute show­down.

“I’m not an­gry, I’d have loved to have used the op­por­tu­nity when I was ahead in the sec­ond set, so I had a bit of a let down which allowed her to get back in the match, gain con­fi­dence and play well,” said Maria, who was play­ing her first tour­na­ment af­ter test­ing pos­i­tive for mel­do­nium at the 2016 Aus­tralian Open.

“I didn’t keep putting that pres­sure on her and if you al­low that to hap­pen to a player like her, it be­comes dan­ger­ous.”

Maria also has wild cards for the Madrid and Rome tour­na­ments and leaves Stuttgart with a world rank­ing of 260 hav­ing ar­rived here on zero fol­low­ing her ban.

She will learn on May 16 whether she will be given a wild card for the main draw at the French Open where she has twice been cham­pion.

Maria jet­ted to Madrid yes­ter­day to pre­pare for the WTA tour­na­ment in the Span­ish cap­i­tal and will play in an ex­hi­bi­tion match on Thurs­day.

“It’s a fairly quick turn around, but this is a process for me,” she said.

“I’ll be in Europe for the next cou­ple of months, but this is what I want to go through.

“I want the matches and to see how my body re­sponds. I want to feel the tired­ness of match play, it’s dif­fer­ent and you can’t train that.

“I love that feel­ing. This is what I asked for, this is what I am do­ing.”

“I am treat­ing Madrid and Rome just as im­por­tantly as the Grand Slams at this point, be­cause I have been out of the game for so long. They are match play and that is what I need.”

Maria re­fused to blame a lack of fit­ness for her semi-fi­nal de­feat.

“If at the start of the week I’d said I’d be in this po­si­tion, I’d be pretty happy with that,” she said.

“The way I played, I was re­ally happy with that. You are never sure what level you are go­ing to come onto the court with, but I feel this is a great base with which I started here.

“I ac­tu­ally felt phys­i­cally re­ally well, even when I was 5-2 down in the third set.

“I still hung in there, but she came up with a string of good points which cost me the match.”

Kristina played Ger­many’s Laura Siege­mund in yes­ter­day’s fi­nal af­ter the wild card beat fourth seed Si­mona Halep of Ro­ma­nia 6-4, 7-5. AFP

EPA PIC

Kristina Mlade­n­ovic in ac­tion

against Maria Sharapova dur­ing their semi-fi­nal match at the Stuttgart tour­na­ment

on Satur­day.

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