Bookmakers install Maria Sharapova as joint-favourite at French Open

Bookmakers install Maria Sharapova as joint-favourite at French Open

Sharapova, similar to the day prior when she claimed she was "way above" engaging in war of words with tennis starlet Eugenie Bouchard, said she will not use Mladenovic's rip jobs as added motivation in their semifinal.

It was Sharapova's first match since her quarter-final defeat to World number one Serena Williams at the 2016 Australian Open, where she was tested positive for banned substance Meldonium. Sharapova has also been granted wildcards into the Madrid and Rome WTA tournaments, but must wait until May 16 to learn if she will get a wild card for the French Open.

"I'm happy. I executed my game plan and I was solid", said a relieved Sharapova, whose comeback is deeply controversial and has a wild card to play in the Stuttgart event where she has been a champion three times.

This was a far more polished, confident display from Sharapova, who hit nine aces and 29 winners against Makarova. To know you were walking back out there was special.

Now, after she progressed to the semi-finals, Sharapova has created another talking point in an exchange with Dan King from the Sun Newspaper.

The French Open is considering an invitation for the two-time champion as well.

If Sharapova can build on the form she has already shown, it is certainly not impossible she could win a third French Open title.

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"It was our first meeting on clay, which is better for her, and in Stuttgart, which is even better for her", Pliskova said.

Speaking in an on-court interview on BT Sport, Sharapova, who next faces either Carla Suarez Navarro or Kristina Mladenovic, said: "I thought I had a really good rhythm".

Top-ranked players Angelique Kerber and Andy Murray are among those who have questioned whether Sharapova should be allowed to resume her career in main draws without playing her way back through qualifiers.

With the win, Sharapova has now set up a second-round encounter against Russia's Ekaterina Makarova, who clinched a 6-2, 6-4 win over Polish star Agnieszka Radwanska.

She initially was given a two-year ban by the International Tennis Federation, but it was reduced on appeal to 15 months.

Speaking to reporters, Bouchard labelled the Russian a "cheat" and was of the belief she shouldn't be allowed to return to competitive tennis.

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