x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Sharapova moves on at Stuttgart but Nadal is out at Barcelona

Maria Sharapova marched into the semi-finals of Stuttgart’s WTA tournament. On the ATP Tour, top-ranked Rafael Nadal’s clay-court struggles worsened as his 41-match winning streak at the Barcelona Open ended with a three-set loss.

Maria Sharapova fires a return in her 6-4, 6-3 quarter-final win over top seed Agnieszka Radwanska at the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany on April 25, 2014. Daniel Maurer / AP Photo
Maria Sharapova fires a return in her 6-4, 6-3 quarter-final win over top seed Agnieszka Radwanska at the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany on April 25, 2014. Daniel Maurer / AP Photo

Defending champion Maria Sharapova marched into the semi-finals of Stuttgart’s WTA tournament with a 6-4, 6-3 win over top-seed Agnieszka Radwanska in Friday’s quarter-finals.

“That was a big win for me,” said Sharapova after picking up her 11th straight win at Stuttgart where she is bidding for a hat-trick of titles having won the 2012 and 2013 tournaments.

Sharapova claimed her ninth win in 11 matches against world No 3 Radwanska of Poland, but the statuesque Russian did not have things her own way, despite needing only an hour and 39 minutes to claim victory. After seven breaks at the start of the match, as the momentum swung back and forth, Sharapova finally won her first service game to take control of the first set.

“That was one of the key moments,” she said after eventually needing eight match points to claim the win.

Having won all four grand slam tournaments, Sharapova is bidding to claim a personal landmark this week at Stuttgart by winning a tournament three times in succession.

Victory bought an extra bonus for the Russian as failure to beat Radwanska would have seen Sharapova fall out of the top 10 for the first time in three years.

She will face Sara Errani in today’s semi-final.

The Italian progressed after Spain’s Carla Suarex Navarro retired through injury during the third set with Errani leading 6-3, 6-7, 3-0.

“I feel really sorry,” Errani said. “I have huge respect for her. It is not easy to play her. I tried to move her around and to be aggressive.”

On the ATP tour, top-ranked Rafael Nadal’s clay-court struggles worsened as his 41-match winning streak at the Barcelona Open ended with a three-set loss to Nicolas Almagro in the quarter-finals last night.

Nadal was looking for his ninth title in Barcelona but lost 2-6, 7-6, 6-4 a week after going out in the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters at the same stage.

Almagro converted his second match point, smashing a forehand down the line for his first career victory over his fellow Spaniard on the 11th try.

Nadal had not lost at the tournament since his debut as a 15-year-old in 2003.

Earlier Japan’s Kei Nishikori continued his impressive return to action after a three week absence because of a groin injury as he beat 12th seed Marin Cilic 6-1, 6-3 to reach the semis.

Nishikori, seeded fourth, was ruthless in the opening set as he broke the big Croat’s serve three times.

The second set was more of a contest, but the world No 17 still had too much as he sealed victory in just over an hour to register his best run in Barcelona.

Next up for Nishikori will be a meeting with Latvian Ernests Gulbis after he secured a third semi-final appearance of the season with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Russia’s Teimuraz Gabashvili.

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