Friday, 28 April 2017

Sharapova back and winning

Important tournaments this week in the lead up to Roland Garros are in progress in Barcelona and Budapest for the men and Stuttgart and Istanbul for the women.

Most attention has been focused on Stuttgart, and the return to competitive tennis of Maria Sharapova.
Maria has served a lengthy sentence for a drug offence, and deserves to be back playing; I am disgusted by those in the media, and certain players, who would rather that she not be granted the Stuttgart wildcard and who continue to treat her with a permanent black mark, never to be afforded another chance.
Remarkable how they don't do that with the men who have come back from drug suspensions.

We need quality players, and Sharapova, despite her incessant screaming, is one of the very best of her era.  With two Roland Garros titles already to her name, it would be an amazing accomplishment to make this year's draw and cause some damage along the way.

Sharapova has in Stuttgart begun her comeback with a bang, eliminating Roberta Vinci and Ekaterina Makarova, both in straight sets, to reach the quarter finals.  The draw has opened up for her, with qualifier Anett Kontaveit from Estonia knocking  out fifth seed Garbine Muguruza in the second round and becoming Sharapova's quarter final opposition.

It hasn't been a great tournament for the seeds.  Third seed Dominika Cibulkova withdrew before the event began and we've seen the departure of Aga Radwanska (7) in the first round (courtesy of Makarova), and Sveta Kuznetsova (8), Johanna Konta (6), and top seed Angie Kerber in second round matches.

The quarter final match ups are:

Kristina Mladenovic v Carla Suarez Navarro (Mladenovic defeated Kerber )
Maria Sharapova v Anett Kontaveit 
Anastasija Sevastova v Simona Halep (4) (Sevastova defeated Konta)
Laura Siegemund v Karolina Pliskova (2) (Siegemund defeated Kuznetsova)

Barcelona has seen its fair share of upsets, but Andy Murray has not appeared amongst the casualties.  A first round bye and a walkover from Bernard Tomic put him safely in the third round without lifting a finger.
When finally asked to raise a racquet the world number one was capable of dismissing Feliciano Lopez comfortably in two sets to reach the quarter finals.

He was joined there by Monte Carlo finalists Rafa Nadal and Albert Ramos-Vinolas, and Dominic Thiem, the only seeds left in the tournament.  Murray will face Ramos-Vinolas for the second tournament in succession, having lost to him in Monte Carlo.

The other quarter finals are:

Dominic Thiem (4) v Yuichi Sugita 
Sugita before this tournament had only played Challenger tour events in 2017 and indeed was a lucky loser out of qualifying just to make the Barcelona draw.  He proceeded to eliminate former world top five Tommy Robredo in the opening round, ninth seed Richard Gasquet in the second round and seventh seed Pablo Carreno Busta in the third.  Quite a step up.

Hyeon Chung v Rafa Nadal (3)
Qualifier Chung from South Korea knocked out 12th seed Kohlschreiber in the first round and 8th seed Sasha Zverev in an amazing 6-1 6-4 third round thrashing.

Karen Khackanov v Horacio Zeballos 
Khackanov had huge wins over Pablo Cuevas (11) and David Goffin (5) in the second and third rounds respectively.
Zeballos said goodbye to seeds Joao Sousa and Benoit Paire en route to this quarter final.

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