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Sharapova blasts critic Mladenovic off court in Madrid

The French player had criticised the former world number one for her use of the banned substance meldonium.

Maria Sharapova from Russia celebrates her victory against Kristina Mladenovic.
Maria Sharapova from Russia celebrates her victory against Kristina Mladenovic.
Image: AP/PA Images

MARIA SHARAPOVA REACHED the Madrid Open quarter-finals on Wednesday with an impressive 6-3, 6-4 demolition of France’s Kristina Mladenovic, one of her most vocal critics.

Former world number one Sharapova fired 30 winners and nine aces in her victory which gave her a last-eight clash with Dutch player Kiki Bertens who knocked out world number two Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-2.

Mladenovic, the world number 22, was runner-up in Madrid last year but she had no answer to the firepower of Sharapova who is set to at least return to the top 40 next week.

Victory was especially sweet for Sharapova who had lost to Mladenovic in the semi-finals in Stuttgart in 2017 in what was the Russian star’s first tournament after serving a 15-month doping ban.

The French player blasted Sharapova for her use of the banned substance meldonium while also criticising her off-court behaviour, describing her as “rude”.

Not that Sharapova was letting personal feelings cloud her joy at a third successive win, which has boosted her chances of being seeded at the French Open later this month.

“I don’t know if anything she said in the past or I’ve said in the past ultimately matters,” said Sharapova, the champion in Madrid in 2014.

“What matters is what happens on the stage that we play on. That’s the most important aspect to me, is getting to the next round, getting to the quarter-finals of this tournament.

“I’m not entirely sure when all things are said and done and we’re walking around with canes you’re going to remember a Wimbledon first round a few years ago that I played against her, or Stuttgart in 2017 semifinal, or Madrid.”

On Wednesday, Sharapova recovered from 1-3 down in the first set to take the opener with an ace.

A further break followed in the seventh game of the second set which proved key to her eventual victory.

© AFP 2018

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