Getty Images

Maria Sharapova wins again, reaches Porsche GP semifinals

1 Comment

Maria Sharapova won again to move into the Porsche Grand Prix semifinals after beating Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-3, 6-4 on Friday.

In her third match following a 15-month doping ban, Sharapova converted five of her six break points.

“I’m really enjoying myself,” she said.

The five-time Grand Slam champion will next face Kristina Mladenovic of France, who overcame Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 6-3, 6-2.

Mladenovic ousted two-time defending champion Angelique Kerber on Thursday and is one of several players who has criticized Sharapova for her doping violation, but the Russian said she will not use it as added motivation in their semifinal on Saturday.

“I’m not someone that uses that as part of my comeback,” Sharapova said of comments against her from her peers, adding she prefers her tennis do her talking.

“My results have spoken for everything that I should speak for. And that’s all that matters. The biggest part of my comeback is what’s out on the court and I will leave it at that.”

Kontaveit had only five unforced errors in the first set, but Sharapova broke for 4-3 and won the next two games. The Russian broke early in the second set, too, and then again for 4-2.

Sharapova finished the match with four aces to raise her total for the tournament to 24.

“I didn’t back off, I didn’t back down and those are kind of the moments that I like putting myself into,” said Sharapova, who won this indoor clay event three times from 2012-14.

The former No. 1 entered the Stuttgart event on a wild card after losing her ranking because of the ban.

2-time Wimbledon champ Kvitova wins return from knife attack

Leave a comment

PARIS —¬†Sweat-soaked and still wearing her match outfit, Petra Kvitova was looking for someone to hug as she wandered into the players’ lounge in the French Open’s main stadium shortly after leaving the court Sunday.

She found her father, Jiri, and her brother, also Jiri, who greeted her with warm embraces and joyous kisses on the cheek. Kvitova’s family members rarely attend her tournaments, but this was different – “special” was the word she, and others, kept using.

Less than six months after a knife attack at her home, two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova was back competing, winning the first match of her comeback 6-3, 6-2 at Roland Garros against 86th-ranked Julia Boserup of the United States.

“I’m happy with the game, of course,” Kvitova said, “but I mean, it wasn’t really about the game today.”

Indeed, just being there under a cloud-filled sky at Court Philippe Chatrier was a triumph of sorts for Kvitova, who needed surgery on her left hand – the one she uses to hold her racket – after being stabbed by an intruder in the Czech Republic in late December. She was undecided until late last week whether to even try to play in the French Open.

“For us, it’s amazing. It’s miracle. Not even me or Petra thought she could be ready to come back so soon,” said her coach, Jiri Novak. “The prognosis was, let’s just say, not optimistic.”

During her on-court interview, Kvitova addressed Novak, her family and others in her guest box, saying: “Thank you for everything you helped me through (in) this difficult time.”

Several members of her entourage wore black T-shirts with white capital letters on the front that read, “Courage. Belief. Pojd.” That last word, which is the Czech equivalent of “Come on!” and was spelled with a red heart instead of the “O,” is often yelled by Kvitova to celebrate particularly good shots.

“The belief and the mind, the heart, it’s really important,” Kvitova said afterward. “So that’s … what we try to show everyone. I hope that it will be kind of inspiration for other people, as well.”

There were plenty of opportunities for her to clench a fist and scream “Pojd!” on Sunday against Boserup, who was making her debut in the French Open’s main draw and facing a lefty for the first time.

“She’s one of the nicest girls, and we are all really happy to see her back. After what she went through, it’s incredible,” Boserup said. “So it’s a victory for her to be back on court. It was really special.”

Kvitova began things with a quick forehand winner on the opening point.

“Amazing,” she said. “I surprised myself.”

Kvitova wound up compiling the match’s first 10 winners and finished with a 31-9 edge in that category. She took 15 of the first 20 points en route to a 3-0 lead and never really faced a whole lot of resistance, other than when she saved three break points – the only ones she had to deal with in the match – while ahead 3-1.

When it was over, Kvitova dropped her racket near the baseline and removed her blue headband. As she walked to the net for a handshake, her eyes welled with tears.

“We are happy that she is healthy. The hand is good – and also the head,” her brother Jiri said. “Mentally, she is back.”

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Venus Williams eases into French Open’s second round after beating Qiang Wang

Leave a comment

In a record 20th appearance at the French Open, Venus Williams eased into the second round with a straight sets victory over Qiang Wang of China.

Williams, who is seeded 10th, saved two set points to win 6-4, 7-6 (3).

The 36-year-old American will play Kurumi Nara of Japan in the next round.