Shara­pova owes good run to staying in shape

The National - News - Sport - - PREMIERLEAGUE -

Maria Shara­pova eased into the semi-fi­nals of Stuttgart’s WTA tour­na­ment af­ter see­ing off qual­i­fier Anett Kon­taveit yes­ter­day for her third straight win on her come­back af­ter a 15-month dop­ing ban. The 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 quar­ter-fi­nal win in one hour, 23 min­utes to book her spot in the last four of the com­pe­ti­tion.

This was an­other im­pres­sive dis­play from the 30-year-old 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,” Shara­pova said.

“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. The for­mer world No 1 will now play France’s Kristina Mlade­n­ovic to­day for a place in to­mor­row’s fi­nal. Un­seeded Mlade­n­ovic, who had beaten world No 1 An­gelique Ker­ber in the pre­vi­ous round, proved too good for Carla Suarez Navarro in her quar­ter-fi­nal as she pre­vailed 6-3, 6-2 in a match that lasted just 74 min­utes. 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 and Rome with Canada’s Eu­ge­nie Bouchard brand­ing her a “cheater” on Thurs­day.

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

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