Maria Sharapova’s return to competitive tennis came to an abrupt halt as she was beaten in the quarterfinals of the Warsaw Open by eighth seed Alona Bondarenko.
Sharapova had come through two matches at the clay court tournament, but found Ukrainian Bondarenko an entirely different proposition as she slumped to a 6-2 6-2 defeat. Bondarenko will play Anne Keothavong in the last four as the British number one beat Romanian qualifier Ioana Raluca Olaru in the first quarterfinal on Thursday. Keothavong is the first British woman to progress to the semis of a WTA clay court event since Jo Durie in 1983. Former world number one Sharapova had hopes she could reach the same stage, but was always struggling against her promising young opponent. Two breaks of service enabled Bondarenko to take the first set in 35 minutes with Sharapova’s 14 unforced errors a major factor. The second saw Sharapova quickly fall behind as she was immediately broken and cut a forlorn figure as she fell 5-0 behind with two further breaks.
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World number 39 Bondarenko only showed signs of nerves as he was broken herself as she served for the match, Sharapova showing signs of her class with a thumping forehand. Sharapova continued her rally by holding service, but Bondarenko made no mistake in the next game as she wrapped up victory in one hour six minutes. Russian superstar Sharapova is back in singles action on the WTA Tour after a nine month layoff following shoulder surgery which has derailed her career. She returns ahead of next week’s French Open on the clay of Roland Garros for the second grand slam tournament of the season.