Former tennis world number one Maria Sharapova breezed through her third-round match against Swiss qualifier Stefanie Voegele to reach the semifinal of the Tianjin Open.
Sharapova, who is on the comeback trail after a 15-month doping suspension, registered a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Voegele and progressed to the next stage of the competition in China. She progresses to face third-seed Peng Shuai of China, who dismantled her Spanish rival Sara Sorribes Tormo in two straight sets 6-0, 6-1.
Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam winner, received a two-year ban from competition after failing a drug test at the 2016 Australian Open. The player admitted taking meldonium, a drug that was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in January 2016.
She stressed, however, that she had been consuming the medicine since 2006 and that it had not been taken for performance-enhancing purposes.
Sharapova’s disqualification was later reduced to 15 months following an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Sharapova returned to action this year in April, but sat out the entire grass-court season due to a left thigh injury. In August, she was granted direct entry into the season finale Grand Slam-US Open.
However, her wildcard was criticized by some of the fellow players, who continued to accuse the Russian tennis player of drug cheating.
Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard was among the most vocal on the issue, stating that Sharapova should have received a lifetime ban for doping violations.
Sharapova made a stunning US Open comeback by knocking out the second seed, Simona Halep of Romania, in the opening round. She went on to register two more victories, but stumbled in the fourth round, where she was beaten by Latvian opponent Anastasija Sevastova.
The World Tennis Association (WTA) rankings, published on October 9, saw Sharapova re-enter the top 100 by climbing 18 places up to 86th position.