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Maria Sharapova advances to semifinals in Stuttgart

Maria Sharapova returns a shot against Anett Kontaveit during their quarterfinal match at the Porsche Grand Prix on Friday.
(Adam Pretty / Bongarts / Getty Images)

Maria Sharapova won again to move into the Porsche Grand Prix semifinals after beating Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-3, 6-4 on Friday.

In her third match following a 15-month doping ban, Sharapova converted five of her six break points.

“I’m really enjoying myself,” she said.

The five-time Grand Slam champion will next face Kristina Mladenovic of France, who overcame Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 6-3, 6-2.

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Last year’s runner up and home favorite, Laura Siegemund, upset second-seeded Karolina Pliskova 7-6 (3), 5-7, 6-3 in a match that lasted over three hours.

The wild card from Stuttgart next faces the fourth-seeded Simona Halep, who progressed against Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia 6-3, 6-1.

Mladenovic ousted two-time defending champion Angelique Kerber on Thursday and is one of several players who has criticized Sharapova for her doping violation, but the Russian said she will not use it as added motivation in their semifinal on Saturday.

“I’m not someone that uses that as part of my comeback,” Sharapova said of comments against her from her peers, adding she prefers her tennis do her talking.

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“My results have spoken for everything that I should speak for. And that’s all that matters. The biggest part of my comeback is what’s out on the court and I will leave it at that.”

Kontaveit had only five unforced errors in the first set, but Sharapova broke for 4-3 and won the next two games. The Russian broke early in the second set, too, and then again for 4-2.

Sharapova finished the match with four aces to raise her total for the tournament to 24.

“I didn’t back off, I didn’t back down and those are kind of the moments that I like putting myself into,” said Sharapova, who won this indoor clay event three times from 2012-14. The former No. 1 entered the Stuttgart event on a wild card after losing her ranking because of the ban.

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Murray, Nadal in Barcelona semifinals

Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray advanced together again, reaching the Barcelona Open semifinals on Friday in the same manner they have won all week: Nadal cruised and Murray labored.

Defending champion Nadal eased past Hyeon Chung of South Korea 7-6 (1), 6-2.

Murray fought hard to beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (4).

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Ramos-Vinolas had chances to beat Murray for the second straight time, but the top-ranked British player controlled the decisive points to close out the match in three hours.

The 19th-ranked Ramos-Vinolas eliminated Murray in the third round at the Monte Carlo Masters last week before eventually losing to Nadal in the final.

“It was very similar to the match in Monte Carlo, except in that match I was the one who had chances, and today he had more chances to win,” Murray said. “I feel like I was a little more aggressive at the end of the second and third sets and then played a good tiebreak.”

Murray will play fourth-seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria, who defeated lucky loser Yuichi Sugita of Japan 6-1, 6-2.

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Murray comfortably won the tiebreaker from a 4-0 lead, but he only got there after saving seven break points and converting all three he had against Ramos-Vinolas.

The Spaniard broke at 4-4 in the decisive set but failed to serve out the match. In the second set, Ramos-Vinolas squandered two break points at 3-3, and three at 4-4.

Losing to Ramos-Vinolas at Monte Carlo prompted Murray to enter Barcelona. He’s out to regain his form for the French Open following a right elbow injury.

“I’m obviously tired, but that’s why it was important for me to get matches, especially ones like today,” Murray said. “It’s good physically to have the long ones.”

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Nadal, seeking his 10th Barcelona title, struggled in the first set but took control of the match after winning the tiebreaker. He broke Chung to start the second set and cruised to his second straight semifinal appearance.

Nadal said of Chung: “He has good potential, great backhand and very quick. He has all the right things to be a good player. He had chances in the first set and I’m happy that I started to play better after the first six games.”

Nadal will play the semifinals against Horacio Zeballos of Argentina, who didn’t drop a serve in beating Karen Khachanov of Russia 6-4, 6-1.

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