Stuttgart - Kristina
Mladenovic ramped up the pressure on Maria Sharapova ahead of their
Suttgart semi-final when she claimed the Russian superstar was getting
"extra help" in her comeback from a 15-month doping ban.
eased into the last four of the claycourt tournament by seeing off
qualifier Anett Kontaveit on Friday for the third straight win of her
The 30-year-old five-time Grand Slam winner has yet to
drop a set and powered past Estonia's Kontaveit, ranked 73rd, for a 6-3,
6-4 quarter-final win.
The Russian former world number one has
been given wild cards by tournament organisers in Stuttgart, Madrid and
Rome and played her first match back here on Wednesday, much to the
irritation of many of her rivals, including Frenchwoman Mladenovic.
sport nowadays it is also about the media and business. Maria is a big
name, who makes people come to watch her," said world number 19
Mladenovic after her 6-3, 6-2 win over Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro.
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 gave a terse answer when asked if Mladenovic's comments would motivate her in Saturday's showdown: "Not at all".
"I am not someone that uses it as part of my comeback," she said after beating Kontaveit.
have let my tennis do the talking. My results have spoken for
everything that needs to be said. The biggest part of my comeback is
what happens on court."
bookmakers already make Sharapova the favourite for next month's French
Open, even though she is not currently guaranteed a place due to her
lack of a ranking after her ban.
However, if she wins Sunday's
final, Sharapova will rank approximately 125th in the world - high
enough for a qualifying place at both the French Open and Wimbledon.
was again impressive against plucky Kontaveit, firing down four aces,
28 winners and hitting just two double faults. She also converted five
of her six break points.
Mladenovic said she has been impressed
with Sharapova's form in beating Roberta Vinci and Ekaterina Makarova in
previous rounds in Stuttgart.
"She has been quite impressive, she
has not played for a long time and has come back, beating players with
different styles," said the 23-year-old who lost her only previous match
against Sharapova, in straight sets in the Wimbledon first round in
"I think she is still mastering her 'A Game'. I didn't see
anything new, I think she is just playing her game really well, like she
did in the past."
Sharapova has won three Stuttgart finals, suffering just one defeat, in her four previous appearances.
bid to reach a fourth final on Sunday has been made easier as top
names, such as Angelique Kerber, Muguruza, Britain's Johanna Konta and
Agnieszka Radwanska, have all crashed out.
Karolina Pliskova joined the casualty list on Friday when she lost 7-6
(7/3), 5-7, 6-3 to Germany's Laura Siegemund in an epic 3 hour 10 minute duel.
Results from the WTA tournament in Stuttgart on Friday (x denotes seeding):
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) bt Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) 6-3, 6-2
Maria Sharapova (RUS) bt Anett Kontaveit (EST) 6-3, 6-4
Laura Siegemund (GER) bt Karolina Pliskova (CZE x2) 7-6 (7/3), 5-7, 6-3