29 Apr 2017

Sharapova cruises into Stuttgart semis

9:42 am on 29 April 2017

Former tennis world No.1 Maria Sharapova cruised into the Stuttgart Grand Prix semi-finals, extending her winning comeback from a doping suspension.

Russia's Maria Sharapova returns against Switzerland's Belinda Bencic on day seven of the 2016 Australian Open in Melbourne, January 24, 2016. AFP PHOTO / PAUL CROCK

Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova Photo: AFP

She did it with a smooth 6-3 6-4 victory over Estonian qualifier Anett Kontaveit.

Wildcard entrant Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam winner, returned to action only this week following her 15-month drugs ban, but has looked like she never really went away in winning her three matches so far without dropping a set.

Sharapova has also received wildcards for upcoming tournaments in Madrid and Rome, angering some players who say a doping offender should start from the lower-tier tournaments and earn back ranking points instead.

Reaching the Stuttgart final could be enough to move Sharapova's ranking back above 200 and secure her a spot in the qualifying tournament for the French Open, and if she did well in Madrid and Rome she might make the main draw for Wimbledon.

"I thought I had a really good rhythm today," Sharapova told reporters. "When you don't know your opponent too well you try to figure them out and when I got my opportunity I took it," she said of her dominant phase late in the first set.

"It's part of being a competitor. We work too hard to come out here and not to give it everything we have. It's important to have that intensity."

Putting her suspension for the use of banned substance meldonium behind her, the 30-year-old returned to action in Stuttgart with a straight sets win over Roberta Vinci

She then eased past fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova to reach the quarter-finals.