Kristina Mladenovic produced a stunning comeback to end Maria Sharapova’s run at the Porsche Grand Prix and take her place in today’s final in Stuttgart.
The 23-year-old French world No.19 lost the first set 6-3 and then found herself broken again by Sharapova at the start of the second set to trail 0-2. But she recovered to break Sharapova, who had not lost a set so far at the tournament, and level the match at 7-5.
Although Sharapova rallied to get the deciding set back on serve, it was Mladenovic who found her range of passing shots when it mattered, closing out her first match-point chance for a 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory.
Wildcard entry Sharapova was playing her first tournament following a 15-month doping ban after a positive test for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open.
The Russian’s defeat means she will finish outside the top 200 when the rankings are released on Monday, ruling out a qualifier spot for the event in Paris, which starts on 22 May. She will learn on 16 May whether she will be given a wildcard for the draw.
Prior to yesterday’s match Mladenovic claimed Sharapova, right, was receiving “extra help” by being given wildcard entries: she has three.
“I understand tournaments want her in the draw,” said Mladenovic. “She is very famous and they want more attention, which is part of the business. On the other hand, you can ask if it is fair to get a wildcard.
“It’s a fact that she was caught by anti-doping, but she wasn’t the first one. Others have also had the right to come back and play tennis, but with a different road – they wouldn’t get invitations to tournaments.
“Of course, she is authorised to play tennis again, but why would she get that extra help compared to other players?”
Mladenovic will play German Laura Siegemund, who beat Romania’s Simona Halep 6-4, 7-5.