Sharapova storms in Warsaw quarters

WARSAW: Maria Sharapova continued her successful return to the WTA circuit on Wednesday with a confident 6-2, 6-0 victory over Darya Kustova of Belarus which took her into the quarter-finals. The former world No.1 is playing her first singles tournament in nine and a half months after taking time off to recover from a persistent shoulder injury.

Despite the doubts over her fitness, the 22-year-old showed signs of her glory days when she won three Grand Slams including Wimbledon as a 17-year-old.

The Russian pin-up cruised through the first set in a much improved showing from her inconsistent three-set first round win over Italy's Tathiana Garbin 6-1, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3.

With her right shoulder still strapped up, the Russian used crisp baseline shots and strong serving to keep Kustova pinned to the baseline.

She raced through the second set and won 13 straight points to take her to 5-0, 40-0 before Kustova delayed the inevitable with a forehand winner. The Russian then closed out the match when Kustova hit long and Sharapova's unbeaten return was assured for at least another match.

She now plays Ukrainian eighth seed Alona Bondarenko for a place in the semi-finals. Bonderenko, who defeated Poland's Marta Domachowska 6-3, 6-1, promises to provide a stiffer test for Sharapova. Sharapova's return to action will please organisers at Roland Garros in Paris where the French Open will get underway on Sunday as she is still one of the biggest draws in the women's game.