Sharapova highlights improved focus after second win


Maria Sharapova said she felt more comfortable and focused out on court on Thursday as she continued her comeback at the Stuttgart Open with a straight-sets victory over Ekaterina Makarova.

Having triumphed against Roberta Vinci 24 hours earlier on her return from a 15-month doping ban, the former world number one produced an improved display to reach the quarter-finals.

Fellow Russian Makarova was beaten 7-5 6-1 and Sharapova appeared understandably upbeat in an on-court interview that followed her success.

"Being the second match and playing yesterday and getting all the emotion out of the way after the first one, I feel like I settled down a little bit and was able to focus on the game," she explained.

"I executed a great plan. I thought I was solid.

"It was a really great serving first set for the both of us and it was up to the last couple of games. So I was really glad that I pulled that out, it really helped me for the second set."

Asked what has proved the hardest aspect of the game following her lengthy time away from the WTA Tour, Sharapova replied: "I think the reaction, like the hand-eye co-ordination and the anticipation of where the next ball is coming. Those things, in practice, are really tough to train, because in a match it's quite different.

"Practice is so different, you can never quite compare. You can prepare the best that you can and then when you go out, you just have to trust the work that you put in. I've been doing that for the last few months, so it was definitely great to come out and play matches. Being in the quarter-finals here again, it's quite special."

Next up for Sharapova is a meeting with qualifier Anett Kontaveit, the world number 73.

"There's only a few girls in the draw that I haven't played before and she's one of them," added Sharapova.

"She's had a lot of matches this week and has played really great tennis, so it will be a great match and a terrific opportunity for the both of us."