It remains to be seen whether Sharapova is fit enough to last the fortnight. Then again, it’s a query that applies to all hopefuls. When the battlesmoke cleared in the first round, Halep, Kerber, and Wimbledon semifinalist Johanna Konta — three of seven p
The best of the best fighting for hardware is invariably what tennis fans want, especially in major events, so it could not have been good for them to see the likes of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray bow out of the United States Open without having hit a single groundstroke. That said, the absence of the usual suspects breezing through early rounds makes for interesting fare from the get-go. Unpredictability reigns at Flushing Meadows, with the trophy and, for the remainder of the acknowledged elite, the top spot in world rankings at stake.
On the distaff side, the return of Maria Sharapova to action brings to the US Open much-needed luster. With perennial favorite Serena Williams sidelined due to pregnancy and defending champion Angelique Kerber still suffering from a slump, the five-time major champion figures to be in the limelight, never mind her wild-card status and 19-month layoff from Grand Slam competition. And if her sterling showing against second seed Simona Halep the other day is to be a gauge, she deserves the interest she has generated; even as she displayed occasional rust borne of her prolonged suspension due to the unapproved intake of the banned substance meldonium, she looked much like, well, herself — still aggressive with every hit, still thinking between points, still powerfully compelling.
Granted, not a few quarters have questioned Sharapova’s presence via an exemption in one of the sport’s most significant stops. Given the circumstances leading to sanctions imposed on her by the International Tennis Federation, pundits wondered if the development sent players the wrong signals, arguing that all and sundry would have been better served had she instead worked her way up from her current standing of 143rd in the world and into the tournament. Then again, her performance against Halep, who left nothing in the tank, underscored her worth.
It remains to be seen whether Sharapova is fit enough to last the fortnight. Then again, it’s a query that applies to all hopefuls. When the battlesmoke cleared in the first round, Halep, Kerber, and Wimbledon semifinalist Johanna Konta — three of seven players who hitherto had a chance to become World Number One — were gone. Meanwhile, 37-year-old Venus Williams continues to fight, as do supposedly past-prime statesmen Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer. All told, the US Open’s living up to its name, with
fickle fate slated to reward the most determined.