Maria Sharapova’s comeback following her 15 month ban for taking performance enhancing drugs, was brought to an abrupt end at the semi-final stage of the Stuttgart Open, by Kristina Mladenovic of France, one of the Russians biggest critics.
Of course, she is authorised to play tennis again, but why would she get that extra help compared to other players? Kristina Mladenovic
The Russian who was playing courtesy of a wildcard granted by the organisers, suffered a 3-6 7-5 6-4 loss and as a consequence is not assured a wildcard into the French Open and now awaits a decision by the French Federation which they have promised to announce on May 16.
The way tournaments are easing Sharapova back into the fold is proving very irritating as far as the other players are concerned, including Mladenovic who said: "In sport nowadays it is also about the media and business. Maria is a big name, who makes people come to watch her. On one hand, I totally understand the tournaments want her in the draw, because she is very famous and they want more attention, which is part of the business.
On the other hand, you can ask if it is fair to get a wild card. It’s a fact that she was caught by anti-doping, but she wasn’t the first one. Others have also had the right to come back and play tennis, but with a different road, they wouldn’t get invitations to tournaments. Of course, she is authorised to play tennis again, but why would she get that extra help compared to other players?
Sharapova has already been granted wildcards into Madrid starting next Friday, and Rome but she needed to reach the final in Stuttgart to ensure direct enrty into the qualifying event at Roland Garros. She should, however, have accrued sufficient points after Madrid and Rome to gain entry into the Wimbledon qualifying event in Roehampton.
In the meantime, Sharapova is leaving Germany happy with her performances this week and heads to Madrid where she is scheduled to play an exhibition match.
”You are never sure what level you are going to come onto the court with, but I feel this is a great base with which I started here," she said before her departure. I would have loved to use more of the opportunities when I was up a set and a break and I think I lost like 12 out of the next 14 points. So I definitely had a bit of a letdown,
In the other semi-final, Siegemund upset fourth seed Simona Halep as she defeated the Romanian 6-4 7-5.
At the Istanbul Cup in Turkey, top seed Elina Svitolina, world No13, defeated Jana Cepelova 6-2 6-3 and will face the sixth seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium who in turn defeated Irina-Camelia Begu, the number three seed from Romania, 6-1 6-1.
On the men’s tour in Spain, Andy Murray suffered an upset as he was defeated by the Austrian Dominic Thiem 6-2 3-6 6-4 at the semifinal stage of the Barcelona Open.
As in his previous matches this week, Murray was pushed all the way but while he made successful recoveries in his previous two matches, he failed to do so on this occasion.
"It is the first win (over a world number one), so it is really something special, but it is also the first win over a top-10 guy this season," a delighted Thiem said. "There are many positive things to take from today’s match. For me personally, it’s the best victory this year so far.
"I went down in the third set when he broke me in the first game, but the way I came back mentally was a huge step forward today."
Murray, who went out in the third round at Monte Carlo last week, was happy enough with his performances in Barcelona.
"I got three matches in three days against all different players," he said. "Feliciano Lopez uses a lot of slice and variation, Albert Ramos-Vinolas yesterday is a lefty and today against Dominic, who plays with the kick serve and so much spin. To play two hours today after three yesterday, will be good for me."
Thiem faces third seeded Rafa Nadal in the final, the Spanish icon, who is chasing his tenth Barcelona title, having secured his place with a 6-3 6-4 win against Horacio Zeballos of Argentina.
Meanwhile in Budapest the Britih No4, Aljaz Bedene secured a place in the final of the Hungarian Open with a straight-sets 6-2 6-4 win over Serbian Laslo Djere.
The win was a 16th in succession for Bedene, who had secured back-to-back titles on the second-tier Challenger Tour before coming through qualifying in Budapest and going on to upset second seed Ivo Karlovic in the quarter-finals.
Bedene said: "I was working really hard in the pre-season and staying solid, so I am really happy with how I am playing. It is great to play in a final."
The Briton will now face top seed Lucas Pouille of France after he beat Italian Paolo Lorenzi 6-2 7-5.