Saturday 22 July 2017

Maria Sharapova continues winning return after doping ban

Russia's Maria Sharapova celebrates after she defeated Russia's Ekaterina Makarova in their second round match at the WTA Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, southwestern Germany, on April 27, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / THOMAS KIENZLE
Russia's Maria Sharapova celebrates after she defeated Russia's Ekaterina Makarova in their second round match at the WTA Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, southwestern Germany, on April 27, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / THOMAS KIENZLE
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Maria Sharapova recorded the second victory of her comeback to reach the quarter-finals of the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart.

After a nervy start and ultimately comfortable win against Roberta Vinci in the first round on Wednesday, Sharapova stepped up a level to beat fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova 7-5 6-1.

Speaking in an on-court interview shown on BT Sport, the 30-year-old said: "Being the second match and playing yesterday and getting all the emotions out, I feel I settled down a little bit today and I was able to focus on my game. I executed a great plan.

"Practice is so different. You can prepare the best you can and when go out you just have to trust it. It was definitely great to come out and play matches and being in the quarter-finals here again is quite special."

The five-time grand slam champion generated huge power off her groundstrokes from the off and wore down dogged Makarova over an hour and 19 minutes.

Both women held serve comfortably throughout most of the first set, with the first sign of alarm coming when Sharapova trailed 0-30 at 4-4.

But she dug in to hold serve, and then enjoyed a real stroke of fortune when Makarova pulled a backhand wide on break point at 5-5 with Sharapova helpless.

It cost her dearly as the former world number one broke in the next game to take the set.

Makarova, who had lost all of her six previous matches against Sharapova, never seemed to recover and the second set was one-way traffic.

The only slight concern was a growing proliferation of double faults from Sharapova - a weakness since severe shoulder problems earlier in her career.

But the seven doubles were outweighed by nine aces, the last of them on her first match point.

The draw has been kind to Sharapova, who is returning from a 15-month doping ban, and she will face another unseeded player in the quarter-finals in Estonia's Anett Kontaveit.

The world number 72 is in great form, though, having reached the final of her last tournament in Switzerland before upsetting French Open champion Garbine Muguruza in the second round here.

Sharapova's two victories have already ensured she will be back in the top 400 in the rankings on Monday, edging her closer to earning direct entry for Wimbledon.

The Russian has two more tournaments in Madrid and Rome in which to secure enough points, while reaching the final in Stuttgart would earn her entry into French Open qualifying without the need for a wild card.

Press Association

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