Los Angeles Times

Sharapova’s return run ends


Maria Sharapova’s first tournament since her controvers­ial return to tennis ended as she lost to

Kristina Mladenovic of France on Saturday in the Porsche Grand Prix semifinals in Stuttgart, Germany. Mladenovic beat former top-ranked Sharapova 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.

In her fourth match following a 15-month doping ban, the Russian was left to rue missing 13 of her 16 break-point opportunit­ies as Mladenovic rallied to win in 2 hours 38 minutes.

The 19th-ranked Mladenovic, who ousted twotime defending champion Angelique Kerber on Thursday, next plays last year’s runner-up, Laura

Siegemund. The German wild card advanced to her second final in her hometown with a 6-4, 7-5 defeat of fourth-seeded Simona Halep.

Sharapova, who tested positive for meldonium at last year’s Australian Open, had been given a wild card to enter the Stuttgart event after losing her ranking because of the ban.

Dominic Thiem upset world No. 1 Andy Murray 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 to advance to a final against defending champion Rafael Nadal at the Barcelona Open. Nadal returned to the final by beating Horacio

Zeballos of Argentina 6-3, 6-4 after Thiem dispatched with Murray at the Real Club de Tenis.

Murray’s defeat came a week after he exited the third round at Monte Carlo. That loss prompted Murray to enter the event in Spain to whip up some form for the French Open following a right elbow injury.

Nadal, a nine-time champion on Barcelona’s clay, said he “wasn’t surprised” by Thiem’s first win over Murray in three attempts.

Thiem, an Austrian ranked No. 9 in the world, will be seeking his second title of the year and to add to his eight career titles.

Nadal looked set to roll past Zeballos, but he had to save five break points in windy conditions to get the straight-sets win.

Nadal won his 10th Monte Carlo title last weekend. Sunday’s final will be his fifth of the season for the Spaniard as he primes his clay-court game for Roland Garros in a month.

Jonas Blixt of Sweden and Cameron Smith of Australia apparently are enjoying playing as teammates too much to be unsettled by wind gusts reaching 36 mph. They extended their bogey-free run to three rounds in the new team format at the Zurich Classic at Avondale, La., deftly adjusting to the winds tand posting a four-under-par 68 to widen their lead to four strokes.

Alternatin­g shots on Saturday, the Blixt-Cameron partnershi­p posted four birdies to improve to 19 under par, building on a lead that stood at only one shot through two rounds.

The Kevin Kisner-Scott Brown and Nick Watney-Charley Hoffman teams were tied for second. Also in contention are Jordan Spieth and Ryan Palmer, five shots behind — although they could have been several shots closer if not for some uncharacte­ristic misses of short putts by the two players.

Haru Nomura of Japan had fun on another windy day on the LPGA Shootout in Irving, Texas. Despite a one-over par 72 with a late double bogey in the third round, she doubled her lead. Namura, who led by one stroke after 36 holes, leads by two over 17year-old amateur Eun Jeong Seong (69), Cristie

Kerr (70) and two-time Texas winner Inbee Park (71).

Simon Pagenaud took advantage of a caution flag that caught the other leaders on pit road to win the Verizon IndyCar race Saturday night at Phoenix Internatio­nal Raceway in Avondale, Ariz. The defending series champion grabbed the lead when Team Penske teammate Will Power pitted on the 137th lap, and the caution came out seconds later when Takuma Sato hit the wall in the fourth turn.

JR Hildebrand was third for Ed Carpenter Racing.

Kyle Larson took the lead with only a handful of laps to go when race leader Ty Dillon jumped a restart and Larson went on to win the NASCAR Xfinity race in overtime at Richmond (Va.) Internatio­nal Raceway. Justin Allgaier, who dominated most of the race, leading 157 laps, finished second.

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