Sharapova stays put as big guns exit US Open
World number two Simona Halep and two-time champion Venus Williams tumbled out of the US Open on Friday, but Maria Sharapova bucked the upset trend which has rocked the women’s draw.
Croatian Mirjana Lučić-Baroni, a former phenom and now a 32-year-old veteran who had to fight through qualifying, shocked second-seeded Halep, the French Open runner-up, 7-6 (8-6), 6-2.
The reward for the 121st-ranked Lučić-Baroni is a fourth-round meeting with 13thseeded Italian Sara Errani, who thwarted Williams 6-0, 0-6, 7-6 (7-5).
At the other end of the age spectrum, Swiss 17-year-old Belinda Bencic toppled sixth-seeded German Angelique Kerber 6-1, 7-5.
Bencic, the 2013 Wimbledon and French Open junior champion, now ranked 58th in the world, earned a meeting with former world number one Jelena Janković – a 6-1, 6-0 winner over Sweden’s Johanna Larsson.
Bencic, who is coached by former Swiss great Martina Hingis’ mother Melanie Molitor, seized her chance.
The last grand slam of the year has now lost four of its top 10 women’s seeds, after the second-round departures of Agnieszka Radwańska and Ana Ivanovic.
Errani’s triumph over 19th-seeded Williams wasn’t strictly speaking an upset, but the 13th-seeded Italian had to dig deep to notch her first career victory over the American after three defeats.
“I know that was a really tough match, even if I won the first set 6-0, she’s an amazing player,” Errani said.
And as she expected, seven-time grand slam champion Williams battled back, racing through the second set to set up a third that turned into a slugfest. Williams twice came back from a break down in the third, then broke Errani to serve for the match at 5-3.
But she couldn’t hang on, surrendering her serve as they battled to the tie-breaker, in which Errani took a 5-2 lead only for Williams to battle back to 5-5 before succumbing at last.
Errani was thrilled by the electric atmosphere in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, even though she knew the frantic fans were for her opponent.
Sharapova also found herself in a power struggle, but emerged with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over German 26thseed Sabine Lisicki in a match that finished after midnight.
Both women had more unforced errors than winners – Sharapova by 32 to 20.
In a match that saw nine breaks of serve, Sharapova broke Lisicki in the final game to clinch the win when the German fired a forehand out on Sharapova’s third match point.
SOLID SERVE Maria Sharapova in action during her lengthy third-round US Open match