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Maria Sharapova wins again, reaches Porsche GP semifinals

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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.

Sharapova loses to Rybarikova at Kremlin Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) Maria Sharapova was beaten by Magdalena Rybarikova 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the first round of the Kremlin Cup on Tuesday, ending her bid for a second title in two weeks.

Sharapova, who won the Tianjin Open two days ago, brought her usual power but lacked accuracy with some wild swings on key points.

“I felt fine physically, to be honest, especially after having played five matches in five days (in Tianjin). That was a big surprise,” Sharapova said. “Maybe I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been … Maybe if this tournament hadn’t been in Moscow, I wouldn’t have played it.”

Sharapova was under pressure on serve from the start and saved six break points before finally being broken to 6-5. She responded by breaking Rybarikova, but Sharapova’s double fault at 4-3 in the tiebreaker handed the Slovakian the momentum to close out the set.

Rybarikova, seeded eighth, sealed the match after saving two break points to lead 5-4, then breaking Sharapova in the next game. Rybarikova will play Alize Cornet in the second round.

Six months after she returned from a 15-month doping ban, Sharapova is still trying to move back up the rankings from her current position of 57th. Her first tour appearance in Moscow in a decade drew a large and enthusiastic crowd despite taking place on a Tuesday afternoon.

Also Tuesday, seventh-seeded Julia Goerges beat Russian qualifier Polina Monova 6-0, 6-3 to set up a second-round meeting with Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan.

In the men’s Kremlin Cup tournament, sixth-seeded Damir Dzumhur defeated Thomas Fabbiano 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.

Maria Sharapova wins her 1st title since doping ban

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TIANJIN, China (AP) Maria Sharapova won her first WTA title since returning from a doping ban after defeating Aryna Sabalenka to win the Tianjin Open on Sunday.

The Russian, a tournament wild card, overcame Belarusian teenager Sabalenka 7-5, 7-6 (8) despite trailing heavily in both sets.

Sharapova last won a title at the Italian Open in May 2015.

The former top-ranked player and owner of five major titles, including the 2006 U.S. Open, tested positive for the newly banned drug meldonium at the Australian Open in January 2016. That led to a 15-month doping ban, which expired in April.

“Such a special, special tournament, and victory for me, one that I’ll remember forever,” Sharapova said. “Sometimes you never know when it will all come together but it happened to me this week in Tianjin.”

Sharapova displayed resilience as she came from behind in both sets to overcome her 19-year-old opponent.

Sabalenka led 4-1 in the opener and 5-1 in the second before relenting to Sharapova’s greater big-match experience. It was Sharapova’s 36th WTA singles title.

The 30-year-old Sharapova played in her first Grand Slam tournament following the ban at the U.S. Open in August, where she reached the fourth round. Sunday’s result will lift Sharapova up to No. 57 in the world rankings.