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Sharapova marches into Tianjin semi-finals

AFP

Tianjin (China) (AFP) -

Maria Sharapova equalled her best performance since returning from a doping suspension as she breezed into the Tianjin Open semi-finals on Friday.

The Russian easily defeated Swiss qualifier Stefanie Voegele 6-3, 6-1 in 64 minutes and the former world number one will face China's Peng Shuai in the last four.

Sharapova returned in April from a 15-month suspension for taking the banned substance meldonium.

In her first tournament back, in Stuttgart, she made it to the semi-finals but has been unable to repeat that feat again, until now.

The 30-year-old, ranked 86 in the world, was granted a wildcard for Tianjin because her ranking was too low.

"Obviously she really likes playing here and is the defending champion so she feels really good about the court and the atmosphere," Sharapova said of Peng, according to the WTA website.

"We haven't played in a long time and I know that it will be a tough match, just because it's the semi-finals and when you get to the latter stages it's not getting easier.

"She really likes playing here and is playing well, and I hope to rise to the occasion," added Sharapova, yet to drop a set in three matches in Tianjin.

Peng, the third seed and reigning Tianjin champion, will offer a far sterner test than 196-ranked Voegele.

Sharapova and Peng have played one another six times before, with the Russian winning five of them.

Home hope Peng thrashed Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-0, 6-1 in their quarter-final.

In the other semi-final on Saturday, Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus plays Italian qualifier Sara Errani.

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