TENNIS

Maria Sharapova bets on 'good inner feeling' ahead of French Open return

Sharapova’s win over Australian Daria Gavrilova booked her a quarter-final berth at the Italian Open which should give her a seeding for the French Open.

Former French Open champion Maria Sharapova said Thursday she has a “good inner feeling” as she prepares for her Roland Garros return after a doping ban. Sharapova’s straight sets win over Australian Daria Gavrilova booked her a quarter-final berth at the Italian Open which should give the two-time Roland Garros winner a seeding for the French Open.

“It’s a step in the right direction. It’s obviously a goal to be seeded at events,” said the 31-year-old. “I don’t think that takes away matches. You still have to be ready for tough first rounds and later rounds and whatever comes your way.”

It was a first Masters quarter-final for Sharapova since she won in Rome in 2015. She was denied a wild-card entry last year to Roland Garros after making her comeback from a 15-month doping ban. Sharapova’s serve was broken four times by Gavrilova who had battled until after 2am the previous night, saving two match points against former French Open winner Garbine Muguruza.

But Sharapova broke the Australian’s serve seven times, winning through on her third match point after 1hr and 38min. She next plays reigning French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko for the first time for a place in the final four of a tournament she has won three times. The Latvian fifth seed dropped a set before getting past British number one Johanna Konta 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

“I like the way I’m competing and the way I feel out there. It’s an inner feeling. I like the attitude that I’m playing with,” said five-time Grand Slam winner Sharapova.

And she added she was “going be so excited” to be heading back to Paris after “a tough period” in her life. “I’ve had an incredible amount of memories there, and I don’t rate the amount of, like, happiness you get from winning a Slam. I think that first Roland Garros for me was one of the highlights of my career,” said the 2012 and 2014 winner. Coming to Roland Garros having a few matches behind my back, that’s helpful. Being in that environment, just even the practice and getting there on the first day, practicing on centre court for the first time ... I love it. There’s nothing that can replicate it. As long as I can continue to feel motivated by that moment, I’ll keep loving it and playing there.”

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