Three-time champion Maria Sharapova survived a late charge from Estonian qualifier Anett Kontaveit Friday afternoon at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix to prevail 6-3, 6-4, and reach the last four for the fourth time in five appearances in Stuttgart.
Sharapova Sails to One-Set Advantage
Having been forced to grind through tough opening sets in her first two matches of the week, it was a much more different story for Sharapova this time around, with the Russian finally able to make the first breakthrough in the seventh game, despite a brilliant start from her Estonian counterpart. As both players continued to trade massive blows from the back of the court, it was more often than not Sharapova who was able to come out on top, bossing the rallies right from the get-go.
As she powered towards consolidating and building upon the elusive break of serve, the two-time French Open champion broke once more to power to a one-set advantage with the help of a stunning backhand on the run.
Sharapova Survives Late Fightback from Kontaveit; Moves Into Final Four
Continuing to get the first-strike time and time again, Sharapova continued to ride her wave of momentum deep into the second set, breaking early en route to mounting a seemingly commanding set and 5-2 advantage.
However, Kontaveit had other ideas. Continuing to fearlessly go toe-to-toe with the former world number one, the 21-year-old Estonian mounted what appeared to be the beginning of an impressive fightback, digging herself out of a tough hole on serve before breaking at the perfect time to get back on serve.
But when the chance arose to level the set on her own serve, Kontaveit couldn’t convert, despite having a pair of golden opportunities to do so, and it was Sharapova who reaped the benefits. Closing out the match with another huge return, it was the three-time champion who clinched the first spot in the semifinals, surviving a late fightback from Kontaveit to prevail in an hour and 24 minutes.
Stats Corner: Sharapova Getting Better and Better as the Week Progresses
In her first tournament since serving a 15-month ban, Sharapova just seems to be getting better and better with every match, and she has yet to lose a set in her campaign for a fourth title in Stuttgart. With two matches already under her belt coming in, the five-time Grand Slam champion hit two times more winners than unforced errors (25-12) in a very impressive display against Kontaveit and won a solid 79 percent of the points behind her first serve, which was one of the biggest deciding factors in both sets.
Next Up for Sharapova: Mladenovic
Standing in Sharapova’s way of a fourth final at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix is France’s Kristina Mladenovic, who defeated Carla Suárez Navarro later in the afternoon to set up a mouthwatering clash with the former world number one—mouthwatering considering the harsh comments Mladenovic made in the wake of the Russian’s shocking drug announcement last March.