Maria Sharapova takes on compatriot Ekaterina Makarova in the Women's singles R16 match at Stuttgart Open 2017 (Porsche Tennis Grand Prix) on Thursday.
The wildcard entrant made a successful return to professional tennis after serving out a reduced 15-month-drug ban when she outclassed Roberta Vinci in straight sets in the opening round of the ongoing tournament yesterday.
After being 2-0 down in the first set, Sharapova clawed her way back into the contest and took the match 7-5, 6-3. Despite plenty being said and written about her comeback, the five-time Grand Slam champion looked focussed and produced a masterful display of tennis at the Porsche Arena.
On the other hand, Makarova stunned world number eight Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 6-4 to set up the pre quarter-final clash with Sharapova.
Despite not having played professional tennis and not being allowed into the arena even a day before the start of the tournament, Sharapova was able to overcome rustiness and hit her booming backhand returns, which deflated Vinci yesterday.
Having missed most part of last season and the Australian Open this year, Sharapova will be determined to feature at the Roland Garros in May and she needs to atleast make the final in the ongoing tournament to garner enough points before 1 May deadline for a slot in the main draw of the French Open.
The three-time champion faces an uphill task as she is expected to face defending champion and world number two Angelique Kerber as early as in the semi-final. However, she has avoided a clash against Radwanska after Makarova outclassed the seventh seed.
Sharapova will fancy her chances against Makarova as the 30-year-old has beaten her compatriot in all their meetings (six) in the past with her last win coming at the 2015 Australian Open semi-final.
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