Maria Sharapova withstood a fearless charge from Estonian youngster Anett Kontaveit to reach the final four at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.
WTA Staff
May 19, 2017

STUTTGART, Germany - Maria Sharapova enjoyed another stellar performance at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, surviving a tense finish against Estonian qualifier Anett Kontaveit, 6-3, 6-4, to reach the semifinals in Stuttgart.

"I’m really enjoying myself," she said after the match. "I think that’s the one thing that, as I come off the court, I feel I can take away. When I’m in the match, I’m in the moment and focused on the next point, what I have to do. But when I come off the court, I realize how much I’m enjoying being in those moments.

"I didn’t have a great game serving for the match, but I felt like there was something on the line and I had to deliver, so I stepped up in the next game, hit the right shots and didn’t back up or back down. Those are the moments I love putting myself into."

Kontaveit is in the midst of a career-best stretch, having reached her maiden WTA final at the inaugural Ladies Open Biel Bienne. Reaching the main draw in Stuttgart, she claimed her first Top 10 win over reigning Roland Garros winner Garbiñe Muguruza in three sets, and gave Sharapova a tough challenge to start.

The Russian had to battle through tough opening sets against Roberta Vinci and Ekaterina Makarova, and managed to engineer her earliest break yet on Friday, drawing blood in the seventh game and breaking once more to claim the opening set with the help of four aces and 12 winners.

"I thought I moved a lot better today, and was more comfortable with the ground and the surface. Coming into the first match, I didn’t have a great sense of the court, the clay, or the atmosphere, having just had a practice in the morning.

"My footing is a lot better now, the hand-eye coordination. No matter how much you practice, you lose the reaction of being in a match, so that was better. I’m visualizing tactics better, as well, focusing on patterns. I returned better today, but I know I can still improve that tremendously."

Sharapova appeared on course for a seamless victory up 5-2 in the second set, only for Kontaveit to mount an impressive fightback, breaking the three-time Stuttgart champion as she served for the match.

"She was very strong, and played a lot of matches in the last few weeks. When you’re facing someone with that kind of match experience, she had nothing to lose and had all the form behind her. That’s something I’m lacking, so I felt she was ready, served well, and challenged me, so I had to play well to win today."

With a chance to level the set on her own serve, Kontaveit couldn't convert and Sharapova clinched the first spot in the semifinals, ultimately striking 25 winners to just 12 unforced errors. Still, it was a high-quality match all around, as Kontaveit hit 14 winners of her own and maintained a positive differential behind only 10 unforced errors.

Up next for the Russian will be St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy champion Kristina Mladenovic, who defeated former World No.6 Carla Suárez Navarro in straight sets.

"Both have had really good results on clay. I haven’t played either in quite a while, but from the point of view of opportunity, it’s a great one for either of us to make a big event final. No matter who I play, I’ll be looking at that opportunity and hopefully delivering, no matter who is across the net.

"I want to get different matches, play different types of players."