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Stuttgart. The capacity crowd in the Porsche Arena was treated to top class tennis in the quar-terfinals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. Maria Sharapova continued her successful comeback with another win and advanced to the semi-finals after beating the impres-sive qualifier Anett Kontaveit from Estonia 6-3, 6-4. She has been joined in the penul-timate round by Laura Siegemund. The local hero and member of Porsche Team Germany defeated the Czech Karolina Pliskova 7-6, 5-7, 6-3 in the best match of the tournament to date. Lasting three hours ten minutes, it was also the longest. In her attempt to reach her fourth final in Stuttgart, Maria Sharapova will face Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic on Saturday. Laura Siegemund’s opponent is the Romanian Si-mona Halep.

Maria Sharapova’s return has been the subject of much discussion over the past few days at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. Laura Siegemund’s comeback in the first set of her quarterfinal encounter with Karolina Pliskova was also a major talking point – the world No. 3 was 5-2 and set point up but the Stuttgart-resident dug deep and ran down every ball. She fended off the first set point and then another to force a tie-break which she won 7-3 in front of the ecstatic audience. Though she lost a tight second set she continued in the zone and eventually had three match points after three hours ten minutes. Last year’s runner-up promptly wrapped up the match with her first chance. The Porsche Arena was quaking.

“You’ve seen some fantastic tennis today. But to be honest, it was so close that we both could have won,” exclaimed the overjoyed winner. “I’m normally very critical of myself but today I have to say that it was one of the best matches of my career.”

Laura Siegemund will certainly go into the semi-final against Romanian Simona Halep highly confident. The world No. 5 gave Anastasija Sevastova from Latvia no chance when winning 6-3, 6-1. Another player gaining in confidence is Maria Sharapova who continued her road back to the top with a 6-3, 6-4 win against the qualifier Anett Kon-taveit. “When I’m in the match, I’m very much in the moment,” said the five-time Grand Slam winner. “I’m really enjoying myself but I think I have a long way to go be-fore I’m at my best.” Though the actual result is clear cut, her opponent from Estonia was nevertheless a challenge. There was no pressure on her facing the world star, and that is exactly how she played. “She played very well,” said Maria Sharapova, who won the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in 2012, 2013 and 2014. The 30-year old continued by saying, “I’m moving better with each match and the coordination is re-turning too.”

She will meet Kristina Mladenovic in the first semi-final in the Porsche Arena. The Frenchwoman, who beat Angelique Kerber in the last 16, downed Spain’s Carla Sua-rez Navarro 6-3, 6-2. It continues the 2016 doubles winner’s success story in 2017. Ranked No. 42 at the end of last year, she has climbed to No. 19 after an impressive spring when she won St Petersburg and reached the semi-finals in Acapulco and Indi-an Wells. Awaiting Maria Sharapova is also an opponent with sporting genes as her father was a professional handball player in France. He also played for the former Yugoslavia, as did Mladenovic’s mother who was an international volleyball player. “Playing Maria in the semi-final at such a great tournament is for sure one of the biggest challenges in tennis. But I’m looking forward it,” said the Frenchwoman.

The semi-final matches in the Porsche Arena on Saturday

Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) – Maria Sharapova (RUS)
Simona Halep (ROU) – Laura Siegemund (GER)

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