Sharapova eases past Makarova into Stuttgart quarters

STTUTGART: Former world number one Maria Sharapova eased past fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova 7-5 6-1 on Thursday to reach the Stuttgart Grand Prix quarter-finals and continue her winning comeback from a 15-month doping ban.

The 30-year-old Russian, who has won five Grand Slams and is among the highest-paid athletes in the world, returned to action on Wednesday with a straight sets win over Roberta Vinci following her suspension for the use of banned substance meldonium.

Sharapova, who had tested positive at the 2016 Australian Open, picked up where she had left off against Vinci, powering through her first two service games without dropping a point but struggling somewhat with her return consistency.

Makarova also cleverly mixed up the height and depth of her shots during rallies on the very quick Stuttgart clay with Sharapova still lacking match practice.

Makarova wasted her only break opportunity at 5-5 and Sharapova never looked back. She earned her first break points a game later, powering a crosscourt forehand winner to grab the first set.

She broke Makarova twice in the second set to race 5-1 ahead and served out the match with an ace to set up a quarter-final clash against Estonian qualifier Anett Kontaveit.