Sharapova secures a ‘scrappy’ victory
NEW YORK — No one, not even Maria Sharapova, knew what to expect from her return to Grand Slam tennis at the U.S. Open.
It had been 19 months since she had entered a major tournament. She played only nine times anywhere since returning from a 15-month doping suspension in April.
Two three-set tussles into her stay at Flushing Meadows, it’s clear that Sharapova’s game might be patchy, but she is as capable as ever of coming up with big strokes in big moments — and maybe, just maybe, could stick around for a while in a depleted draw.
Sharapova became the first woman into the third round at the U.S. Open by using 12 aces to help set aside a poor start and coming back to beat Timea Babos of Hungary 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-1 on Wednesday in Arthur Ashe Stadium. It was the highlight of a busy day that featured 87 singles matches on the schedule after rain washed out most play a day earlier.
“It wasn’t my best tennis,” Sharapova acknowledged in an on-court interview. “It felt like it was a scrappy match.”
Sharapova made a whopping 19 unforced errors in the first set alone. But as the match went on, Sharapova looked more like someone who used to be ranked No. 1 and owns five major titles — including the 2006 U.S. Open — than someone who needed a wild-card invitation from the U.S. Tennis Association.
She cut down her miscues to 12 unforced errors in the second set, then just five in the third, and finished with a 39-13 advantage in winners.
Sharapova’s serving made a difference down the stretch against Babos: She won 16 of the last 19 points she served.
In other matches, two other past U.S. Open champions, Juan Martin del Potro and Svetlana Kuznetsova, won in the afternoon, while two-time winner Venus Williams was scheduled to face Oceane Dodin of France at night.
No. 14 Nick Kyrgios, No. 22 Fabio Fognini, No. 26 Richard Gasquet and No. 27 Pablo Cuevas all lost their openers.
Maria Sharapova celebrates after rallying to beat Timea Babos in three sets during the second round Wednesday.