‘Solid’ Sharapova wins second match on comeback

"I'm happy. I executed my game plan and I was solid," said a relieved Sharapova. — AFP/File
Shukriya Pakistan

STUTTGART: Maria Sharapova picked up a second win in as many days on her comeback from a 15-month doping ban on Thursday, beating fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova at the Stuttgart WTA tournament.

The 30-year-old five-time Grand Slam winner dominated Makarova, ranked 43 in the world, for a 7-5, 6-1 win in just one hour, 20 minutes, in the second-round tie.

“I’m happy. I executed my game plan and I was solid,” said a relieved Sharapova, whose comeback is deeply controversial.

On Friday she will face Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit for a place in the semi-finals.

There was none of the rust or nerves Sharapova showed in beating Roberta Vinci 7-5, 6-3 in Wednesday’s first round — the first day she was eligible to play after testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.

This was a far more polished, confident display from Sharapova, who hit nine aces and 29 winners.

But there is still work to do before facing Kontaveit as Sharapova also had seven double faults and made 19 unforced errors.

“Practice and playing are so different and you can only prepare the best you can, so it’s good to finally play,” said the former number one, in Stuttgart on a wildcard.

“The reaction and anticipation you need are so hard to replicate in training and these are the things I need.”

Makarova, who has now lost all of her seven matches against Sharapova, put up a fight as the first set followed serve, but was broken in the final game.

Sharapova pumped her fist and let out a scream as she converted her second set point.

It was all Sharapova in the second set as she won six straight games after Makarova won the first on her serve.