Stuttgart: Maria Sharapova picked up the second win 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.
She will face Estonia's Anett Kontaveit for a place in the semifinals. Earlier, the five-time Grand Slam champion and former No.1 beat Roberta Vinci 7-5, 6-3 in the opening round.
Sharapova had earlier been given a lukewarm welcome by the 4,500 spectators, receiving a polite applause and some whistling when she entered the sold-out arena. “It was the best feeling in the world,” Sharapova said about finally stepping on court again for a professional match. “I have been waiting for this a long time.” Sharapova said she had “a pretty normal life” and “grew as a person” while being away from the circuit, until getting back to tennis training in January.
Meanwhile, Sharapova says she would ‘play in the juniors if I have to’ in order to compete at the French Open and Wimbledon, but has no interest in building bridges with her rivals after making her comeback. Sharapova has also been granted wildcards into the Madrid and Rome WTA tournaments, but must wait until May 16 to learn if she will get a wild card for the French Open. She was very clear she will take any chance to try to win a third French Open title at Roland Garros, which starts on May 22, or Wimbledon in July. “I’d be prepared to play in the juniors if I have to,” she replied.
“If there is an opportunity to be in the draw, I will take it. I have been offered wild cards and I am accepting them. I am not getting a trophy or a golden platter, I have to win these games and that is my job,” she said. The organisers’ decision to parachute Sharapova into the main draw in Stuttgart, where she has been champion three times, drew criticism from rivals, who believed she was receiving preferential treatment. The Russian made it clear she will make no effort to build bridges in the locker room at tournaments with anyone who criticised her. “I don’t spend too much time there. I have a great amount of friends at home, all over the world, who I speak to and those friendships matter to me, with my family and friends,” she said.