Maria marches into semis

New Straits Times - - Sport -

TIAN­JIN: Maria Shara­pova equalled her best per­for­mance since re­turn­ing from a dop­ing sus­pen­sion as she breezed into the Tian­jin Open semi-fi­nals yes­ter­day.

The Rus­sian eas­ily de­feated Swiss qual­i­fier Ste­fanie Voegele 6-3, 6-1 in 64 min­utes and the former World No 1 will face China’s Peng Shuai in the last four.

Maria re­turned in April from a 15-month sus­pen­sion for tak­ing the banned sub­stance mel­do­nium.

In her first tour­na­ment back, in Stuttgart, she made it to the semi-fi­nals but has been un­able to re­peat that feat again, un­til now.

The 30-year-old, ranked 86 in the world, was granted a wild­card for Tian­jin be­cause her rank­ing was too low.

“Ob­vi­ously she re­ally likes play­ing here and is the de­fend­ing cham­pion so she feels re­ally good about the court and the at­mos­phere,” Maria said of Peng Shuai.

Peng Shuai, the third seed and reign­ing Tian­jin cham­pion, will of­fer a far sterner test than 196ranked Ste­fanie.

Home hope Peng Shuai thrashed Spain’s Sara Sor­ribes Tormo 6-0, 6-1 in their quar­ter­fi­nal.

In the other semi-fi­nal on Satur­day, Aryna Sa­balenka of Be­larus plays Ital­ian qual­i­fier Sara Er­rani. AFP

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