Maria Sharapova’s comeback to tennis was halted by Kristina Mladenovic who stunned the former No. 1 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the semifinals in Stuttgart Saturday.
Behind her powerful serve, Sharapova rolled out quickly with an early break, then after taking the first set, she led 2-0 in the second. But Mladenovic turned things around and upped her game to force a decider.
The Frenchwoman kept the pressure on going up 5-2 then hung on to reach her third final of the season.
“I just fought and I hung in there,” Mladenovic said. “It was not easy. Such an important match, such an important stage, to go to the final of a big event and playing that kind of dramatic match, being down a set and a break, not playing my best tennis at all, struggling to find a rhythm, fighting with myself to just be there and play well and eventually I got the solution, got the win.
“It was a huge fight, mental fight overall. You have some days like this where you just need to be a little bit better somehow and win the match.”
Sharapova, who was playing her first WTA event in 15 months, attributed a let down in the second for the loss.
“I would have love to use more of the opportunities when I was up a set and a break and I think I lost like 12 out of the next 14 points,” Sharapova said.
“I definitely had a bit of a let-down and I think that allowed her to get back in the match and gain confidence and start competing again. I just didn’t keep putting that pressure on her, and I think when you are able to give that to a player that’s played very well this year, it can become dangerous.”
The upsets continued in the women’s draw as Simona Halep was sent off by German Laura Siegemund 6-4, 7-5. Siegemund also made the finals last year.
“I think it’s a combination of the support I get from the spectators and the surface,” Siegemund said. “It’s a combination, and it brings out my best tennis, I think.
“This surface suits my game. It allows the variety you can put on clay, but also you can make the game quick and put pressure on people.”
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