Shara­pova se­cures a ‘scrappy’ vic­tory

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - SPORTS - By Howard Fendrich

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.

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